North Korea is one of the countries with the worst human rights records in the world, with many defectors and labor camp survivors who are able to attest the atrocities they suffered. North Korean refugees are one of the biggest security issues that the world, China especially, faces. It is a large-scale humanitarian concern and political, since no country wants to draw Pyongyang’s antagonism, especially after they declared that they did not want any country harboring refugees.
It has recently come to light that one of these survivors, Shin Dong-Hyuk, author of a bestselling book and a key witness for the UN, admitted to inaccuracies in his depiction of the Kwan-Li-So, a gulag-styled labor camp, where those who commit even the most minor offenses are punished alongside their entire families (up to three generations are punishable and deemed guilty by association). This admission, though honest, may convince the public that the situation in North Korea is nowhere near as dire as the defectors claim. It is extremely difficult to fully prove that what the defectors claim are true, however due to the number of survivors claiming horrific abuse and the physical evidence many exhibit, their claims hold plenty of weight. Exaggerations aside, refugees are often hesitant to speak the full truth, or at all, due to the possibility of hurting those they left behind, including family or people aiding their escape. Shin urges that awareness should continue to be raised to help those who have managed to escape and to help those who are still subjected to horrific tortures within North Korea.