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North Korean prison survivor changes story
02:18 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

North Korean state media slams defector for his "admission of lies"

His claims about prison camps are "no more than a sheer lie and a fiction," KCNA says

CNN  — 

Days after North Korea’s most famous defector revealed some of the details in his accounts about life in prison camps weren’t true, the country’s government fired back Tuesday.

Shin Dong-hyuk’s “admission of his lies goes to prove that everything told by those who claim to be ‘defectors from the North’ cannot be trusted,” the state-run KCNA news agency said, citing a spokesman for North Korea’s Association for Human Rights Studies.

The government news agency called Shin a swindler who “styled himself a ‘survivor’ in the ‘concentration camp of political offenders’ that does not exist in (North Korea) no more than a sheer lie and a fiction.”

Shin’s horrific descriptions of his time in a North Korean prison camp became a best-selling book, made him a key witness before the United Nations and grabbed headlines around the world.

He was one of the most high-profile North Korean defectors, winning several human rights awards and inspiring a documentary as his biography about escaping from a total control zone called Camp 14 was translated into 27 languages.

But over the weekend, the publisher of the book and its author said Shin – who claims to have been born in and escaped from a North Korean prison camp – had admitted several inaccuracies, including the length of time he spent in Camp 14.

Shin still maintains he was severely tortured, but he’s changed details about the dates and locations of what he says transpired.

North Korea’s statement Tuesday says that Shin’s revelation shows that last year’s human rights resolution that the U.N. General Assembly passed criticizing North Korea “was no more than a false document cooked up on the basis of false ‘testimonies’ made by human scum.”

Advocates have said any inaccuracies in Shin’s story shouldn’t undermine the staggering suffering he and other survivors of North Korea’s prison camps have helped bring to light. And the chairman of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry into North Korea noted that Shin was one of hundreds of witnesses, adding that his testimony consisted of only two paragraphs in a 400-page report.

“It’s a very small part of a very long story. And it really doesn’t affect the credibility of the testimony,” said Michael Kirby, chairman of the Commission of Inquiry into North Korea.

CNN has not been able to reach Shin, who noted in a Facebook post apologizing for the inaccuracies in his story that “these will be my final words and this will likely be my final post.”

In an opinion article he wrote for CNN Digital last year, Shin noted that North Korea had made repeated personal attacks against him.

“The dictatorship in North Korea has never been honest or truthful for more than six decades it has been in existence,” he wrote.

North Korea has repeatedly denied Shin’s claims and described testimony before the United Nations commission by him and others as “slander.”

In a video posted last year on a website that carries pro-Pyongyang propaganda, Shin’s father denied that his son was ever in a prison camp.

Shin said in response that the government had taken his father hostage.

CNN’s Judy Kwon contributed to this report.