North Korean Prison Camp Survivor to Attend Geneva Summit for Human Rights

Shin Dong-Hyuk, the only man ever known to have survived an escape from a Northern Korean prison camp, will attend the Geneva Summit For Human Rights and Democracy on Feb. 19.

Shin was born in North Korea's prison camp 14, located some "50 miles from North Korea's capital, Pyongyang." It is part of a system of secret North Korean prison camps believed to house as many as 150,000 political prisoners and their families.

During his 23 years in the prison, Shin was forced to watch his mother and brother executed, he faced "extreme hunger" and the rigors of "forced labor." 

It is believed Shin's family was originally imprisoned because two of his uncles had defected to South Korea following the Korean War. 

In 2005, while gathering firewood with a fellow prisoner near the camp's electric fence, Shin decided to escape. His fellow prisoner tried to go through the "first and second strands" of the fence and was "immediately electrocuted." Shin then slid over the prisoner's body, using it to insulate himself from the strands of the fence, and was soon on the run. 

Shin went north instead of south. He says he crossed into China and upon reaching the South Korean consulate in Shanghai, he was granted asylum. 

Just last month, "UN rights chief Navi Pillay called for an [investigation] of serious crimes committed by North Korea." Pillay described the communist nation as home to some of the "worst human rights violations in the world."


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