A nuclear scientist who defected from North Korea has reportedly died from suicide after he was recaptured in China and brought back to his home country.
The scientist – who is said to have been in his early 50s – had worked at the State Academy of Sciences in Pyongyang, where he led a research team within the physics department.
He was caught in the northern Chinese city of Shenyang early on in November, before being brought back over the border on November 17.
He died in a prison cell while waiting to be interrogated at the Sinuiju city State Security Department.
The man is believed to have smuggled a substance into the state security cell, despite most likely having been searched multiple times during the journey between China to Sinuiju.
How he managed to conceal the substance remains a ‘mystery’.
An anonymous source from North Hamgyong province, North Korea told Radio Free Asia how the man had died just hours after being put in solitary confinement:
He died before he could be questioned about the reasons for his escape, who had helped him, and what his route had been.
The man had been part of a group of defectors captured by the Chinese police in Shenyang.
Officers had been informed of the group by a North Korean state security agent who had been pretending to be a defector.
The source also told of how the scientist fled the hermit kingdom while while taking time off due to ‘anxiety over his research projects’:
Suddenly, he visited relatives near the border without letting his family know and without carrying valid documents for travel.
And when he learned that the authorities were looking for him, he simply disappeared.
Now security officials are working to figure out how the man was able to cross the Tumen river into China before joining up with other North Korean defectors.
Watch one person’s experience of escaping from North Korea below:
After being captured by Chinese police officers, the man did not reveal his position as a nuclear scientist.
The source believes keeping this important information to himself had been a grave mistake:
If the Chinese government had known who he was, they would have wanted to learn what he knew and would never have sent him back.
High-level North Korean sources were apparently able to identify the man early on in December as being called Hyun Cheol Huh, however the source has stated this name could be false.
According to the source:
We don’t know if this was his real name or not,
Generally, State Security will use numbers or fake names when referring to important persons [in their custody]
There has been growing evidence of human rights atrocities within North Korea, as well as an increase in North Koreans being sent back over the border after having made their escape to China.
According to the Daily NK, North Korea has intensified efforts to capture defectors.
According to Daily NK:
[North Korea officials] have also enlisted the families of defectors still living in the North in appeals to the defectors to return.
As part of the propaganda efforts, returning defectors have been promised that Kim Jong Un will pardon any who return.
This crackdown has led to a significant drop in North Korean citizens who are willing to attempt defection.