Recently I wrote about the troubling case of North Korean defector Shin Dong-hyuk, who admitted to giving inaccurate accounts of his life in North Korea.
Now defector and advocate Hyeonseo Lee has written about Shin in the New York Times. With eloquence and far more personal, direct insight than I could ever provide, she’s made some of the same points I wanted to get across. Here’s the heart of it:
This unfolding saga is troubling to me and to other defectors who tell the truth about the horrors of life in the North. The furor over Mr. Shin’s confession is really a sideshow, a distraction from the larger issue: Pyongyang’s continuous abuse of human rights.
Mr. Shin has been examined by doctors who believe he was subjected to torture and child labor, given the evidence of his scars and unnaturally bowed arms. We shouldn’t lose sight of that when discussing his lies.
It’s easy to see how Mr. Shin was tempted to obscure the truth. For defectors, sometimes doing so is the only way to survive.
Beyond that, she talks about the hardships and challenges North Koreans face when they arrive in South Korea, and the need to give them with greater support, which organizations like Liberty in North Korea work to provide.
There are many reasons North Korean defectors lie, as Lee notes. But at its heart, the issue remains the North Korean regime and its human rights abuses, not the personal foibles and mistakes of some of its victims.