North Korean defector testifies at UN panel

Shin Dong-hyuk describes to a UN panel the horrors he experienced at a North Korean prison camp

There are very few prisoners who manage to escape from the modern-day concentration camps of North Korea. Shin Dong-hyuk is one of them. He is perhaps North Korea's best known defector: born in a secret prison called Camp 14, Shin spent the first 23 years of his life in a constant state of hunger, unaware that an outside world existed.

A United Nations human rights commission began an inquiry Tuesday on the allegations of human rights violations at North Korea's political camps. Testifying before a UN panel in Seoul, South Korea, Shin described years of torture, starvation, and public executions he witnessed at Camp 14, part of a vast network of hidden gulags believed to exist in North Korea.

Shin told the panel he was forced to watch the execution of his mother, after he turned her in to camp authorities for plotting an escape. Showing an amputated middle finger, he also described how he was once punished for dropping a sewing machine, "I thought I could be publicly executed," Shin said, "so I felt thankful and grateful that only my finger was cut off."

Last year on 60 Minutes, Shin told his surreal story to Anderson Cooper and explained what it was like to grow up in Camp 14. He shared with Cooper why he turned in his own mother, and how he pulled off a daring escape from the only home he knew for 23 brutal years.

  • Ali Rawaf

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