N.Korea Says High-Profile S.Korean Is Dead

      May 09, 2012 09:39

      Shin Suk-ja with her daughters

      North Korea says the wife of Oh Kil-nam, a South Korean whose bizarre adventure in North Korea shone light on the viciousness of the regime, has died of hepatitis. "Shin Suk-ja, the ex-wife of Oh, died of the hepatitis that she suffered since 1980s," said Ri Jang-gon, a representative for North Korea at the UN in Geneva, in a letter to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

      Oh says Shin (70) was the reason he allowed himself to be lured from West Germany, where Oh was studying for a PhD, to North Korea in 1985. North Korean agents told him they would provide free treatment for Shin's hepatitis, but once they arrived in North Korea they were sent to an indoctrination camp, and the following year Oh was sent to Denmark to recruit other South Koreans but instead applied for asylum there.

      It is rare for North Korea to comment on the fate of missing South Koreans. Usually Pyongyang has responded to demands from Seoul to say what happened to abduction victims or prisoners of war by saying it cannot verify their existence or that they are "out of contact." But this time the UN became involved after reports that Shin is still alive and demanded the North account for her.

      The UN WGAD sent a letter of inquiry to North Korea on March 1, said Kwon Eun-sook of the International Coalition to Stop Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea. "North Korea had 60 days to respond or face the WGAD adopting our petition," Kwon added. "It probably had no choice but to defend itself."

      The ICNK has been working to bring Shin and her two daughters back home, and petitioned the UN agency to intervene in the matter.

      The North responded on April 27, 58 days after the WGAD sent its letter of inquiry, apparently mindful of the 60-day deadline.

      The letter denies Oh's account, claiming Shin and her daughters came to North Korea voluntarily in 1985, referred to Shin as Oh's "ex-wife" and said his daughters do not regard him as their father since "he abandoned his family and drove their mother to death."

      It does not say when or where she died, raising suspicions that the account is a cover-up. Oh said at a press conference on Monday that the North's claims are a "typical lie" and refused to accept them.

      "If Shin is still alive somewhere, North Korea probably lied about her fate to thwart the efforts of Oh and human rights groups to rescue her," said an intelligence source here. Even if Shin is dead, the regime is unlikely to disclose the time and location of her death. "If Shin had really died, it was probably at the Yodok political prison camp or the internment facility in Wonhwa-ri," said an informed source. "The moment the North reveals the time and location of Shin's death, it admits Oh's account that she was sent to a prison camp" due to guilt by association, the source added.

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