Mr Shin gave me the following history. He was born in a prison
camp in N Korea where his parents were prisoners. He lived
with his mother until he was aged 12 years, and thereafter
was housed in men’s accommodation. His father was housed
elsewhere and he saw very little of him. He had an older brother.
He had schooling with other children of the camp. When he finished
his education he worked on the machines in a garments factory,
mainly making uniforms. Schoolchildren also had to labour from
an early age. Mr Shin has made a very full statement about
his life in the camp and I will not repeat it in this report.
Mr Shin has no memory of any tenderness from his mother. She
worked long hours as a farmer and he supposes that he was left
alone during that time, possibly tied to keep him out of the
He recalls a life of daily physical and mental cruelty from
the guards, teachers, and other prisoners. These included
being beaten, kicked, pushed and dragged, and having stones thrown
at him. Living conditions were basic and food always
His daily food consisted of corn and other vegetables
heavily salted. The prison regime was harsh for all inmates and
can recall countless injuries and deaths of prisoners
through accidents and deliberate punishments. Mr Shin said his
beat him severely once, for picking up a cucumber on
their way back from the fields. There was always mistrust and
Mr Shin made
no close friendships. He said he knew no other life and
had no curiosity.
Mr Shin has described a major incident when
he was aged 14 years. His mother and older brother were arrested
He says that on the morning of 6.4.96 he was
handcuffed, blindfolded and driven to an unknown place. He learned
about his mother and
brother and was interrogated about his knowledge and
part in the plot. He had no information to give.
was left in a small
cell overnight and the next day taken to
another room. Here he was stripped and his hands
and feet tied.
was suspended from
the ceiling by his arms and legs while being questioned.
A fire was kindled on the floor under his back.
The pain made him scream
and writhe. When he did this a torturer forced
a hook into the skin in his pubic area so that he could not
struggle. He fainted.
Mr Shin does not know for how long he was unconscious.
He regained consciousness in a cell. He was in
great pain, and he had urinated
and defaecated. His wounds became infected. He
became weaker and feverish. He says that the guards refused
to enter his cell
because he smelled so bad. They just pushed food
through the door. There were no toilet facilities.
He was then
a cell with another prisoner, an older man who
had been there a long rime.
Mr Shin has described how this older male prisoner helped
him regain his strength and health and give him the will
He was in the cell for seven months. When he
was taken from the cell he saw his father briefly and
that he too had been
tortured for the same reason. Mr Shin and his
father were forced to watch his mother hanged and his
brother killed by firing squad
for attempting to escape.
Thereafter Mr Shin was routinely ill-treated by the camp authorities for being the relative
He was given harder
work and beaten more frequently by his teachers
and camp officials. He became nervous and isolated.
After leaving school he was assigned to work in a garment factory,
repairing machines. On one occasion he was carrying a machine
and dropped it. He was grabbed by guards, and dragged to a table
He was forced to kneel on the floor and his right hand was held
on the table while a guard chopped the tip of his middle finger
off. Mr Shin screamed. He did not faint.
When he looked the tip
was hanging off, still attached with a bit of skin which
he pulled. He then went to the camp clinic to have it cleaned
Mr Shin described witnessing countless severe
accidents involving gross injuries and loss of life. He has also
seen others subjected
to cruel punishments and killed. He says he knew of
no other way of life. He did hear about individuals who
but did not consider this himself.
Mr Shin has described how in 2004 he was working
with a prisoner who had lived in the outside world and
who described a different
way of life. He says he resolved to escape with this
man and together they watched for an opportunity.
On 2,1,05 they were working near the perimeter
barbed and electrified wire fence. They saw an opportunity
and made a dash for it. His
fellow prisoner died on the wire. He sustained
burns and deep cuts to both legs, and received an electric
shock, but somehow
managed to keep going and ran.
The wounds on his legs became infected and took
many months to heal. He found a way of surviving
Korea for about 20 days
until he was able to escape to China and eventually
to S Korea, where he now lives.