by STEVE HAN
In what appears to be a stab at character assassination, the North Korean government accused North Korean defector and human rights activist Shin Dong-hyuk of rape, stating that he left the country to escape the alleged sexual assault charges.
In a statement titled, “Scumbag Shin Finally Exposed!” the North Korean embassy accused Shin of raping a 13-year-old girl in 2001, and alleged that he had fled the country to escape charges. The statement also dismissed Shin’s testimony about his experiences in North Korea’s prison camps, calling them “lies.”
“Shin Dong Hyuk himself subjected to rape a 13-year-old girl … in the village of Bonchan, and in 2002 he was arrested by Chinese border guards for illegal border crossing,” read the statement, which named the girl. “Thereafter, he was transferred back to our law enforcement agencies, but instead of showing genuine regret and trying to redeem his crime, he again made an illegal border-crossing to the South.”
North Korea’s accusations against Shin came after the United Nations released a report in February based on testimony from defectors. The report estimated that North Korea’s brutal prison camps hold up to 120,000 people.
“The dictatorship in North Korea has never been honest or truthful for the more than six decades it has been in existence,” Shin said in a statement, responding to the accusation. “Our fight fight begins now. And this fight is a very difficult one … [but] not saying a word to challenge the North Korean dictatorship … and saying that [the defectors’] testimonies are lies, is acting just as bad as the regime, and it is truly unjust.”
North Korea has often used bizarre or vulgar language to criticize defectors in the past, calling them “human garbage” or a “man who’s more worthless than a dog.” The rape allegation represents a different tack, and it’s difficult to know what to make of the allegations given the lack of evidence and the unlikelihood of due process.
“[Shin] expected the regime to come out with these sort of accusations and attacks,” said Henry Song, the U.S. director for Inside NK, Shin’s advocacy group. “I doubt these attacks will have any negative effect on our work, both personally for Dong-hyuk and for our organization. Most likely, it will just highlight how ridiculous the regime can get in its attacks against North Korean defectors.”
Since the UN released its report, North Korea has been uncharacteristically active in engaging with the rest of the world to downplay the issue of human rights abuses, going so far as to deny the existence of prison camps altogether.
Currently the only known prisoner to have escaped North Korea’s notorious Camp 14, known as the “total control camp” from which inmates never leave, Shin has worked diligently to raise awareness worldwide on the need for humanitarian relief in North Korea since defecting in 2005. The New York-based international organization Human Rights Watch is honoring Shin this year with its Alison Des Forges Award for his efforts, crediting his outspokenness about the atrocities in his native country in helping to bring about the establishment of a UN Commission of Inquiry. Shin’s story was the subject of the book, Escape from Camp 14: One Man’s Remarkable Odyssey From North Korea to Freedom in the West, by former Washington Post reporter Blaine Harden.