Pyongyang says defector’s wife died
Pyongyang sent an official reply to a UN enquiry about the fate of Shin Sook-ja and her two daughters, who have been trapped in the North after defecting there in 1985.
Open Radio for North Korea, a civic group for human rights in the North, said at a press conference yesterday that they were informed that Shin, the wife of South Korean double-defector Oh Kil-nam, died of hepatitis. It’s the first time North Korea has officially responded to the case.
Oh has been at the forefront of a campaign to find his wife and daughters after fleeing the repressive regime in 1986. The 69-year-old retired economist defected to North Korea with his family in 1985 while studying in West Germany.
Thousands of South Koreans, including lawmakers and human rights activists, have mounted calls at home and abroad for the return of Shin and her two daughters, who reportedly were being held at a prison camp in North Korea until at least recently.
“Mr. Oh submitted a plea for rescuing his wife and two daughters from North Korea to a UN working group on Nov. 18, 2011, through the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights New York office,” Kwon Eun-kyoung, manager of Open Radio for North Korea, said. “The North Korean regime submitted its reply to the UN group on April 27.”
“First, Ms. Shin Sook-Ja, the ex-wife of Oh, died of hepatitis, which she suffered from since the 1980s,” the letter read. “Second, the two daughters of Ms. Shin do not regard Oh as their father since he abandoned his family and drove their mother to death. They strongly refuse to deal with Oh and asked not to be bothered anymore.
“I wish to underline that the case mentioned in your letter has nothing to do with arbitrary detention,” the letter added.
“When I first read this letter, I suspected that North Korea is once again telling a manipulated story, just as they did to Japanese families whose members were abducted,” Oh said at the Open Radio for North Korea press conference. “There’s no specific mention about when and where my wife died.”
Park Sun-young, Liberty Forward Party representative, also said that the letter was suspicious. “The latest witness in North Korea said she was in the Yodok concentration camp in 2004,” Park said. “Witnesses said her health was in a bad condition.”
A bill asking North Korea to confirm the whereabouts of abductees is pending in the Canadian parliament, Park said.
Ha Tae-kyung, an activist-turned-lawmaker, demanded Pyongyang verify details of Shin’s death.
“We want them to confirm where, when and how she died and give us an official medical document,” Ha said. “If she indeed died, her remains should be sent to the South. The two daughters will also have to meet with their father in a third country.”
Ha added, “However, it’s positive that North Korea sent this kind of official reply in the case for the first time, and we think the regime under the ruling of Kim Jong-un is more conscious of human rights affairs than his father’s.”
By Kim Hee-jin [email@example.com]