TIME North Korea

North Korean Camp Survivor Admits He Was Not Straight About His Story

Shin Dong-hyuk
Jason DeCrow—AP North Korean human-rights activist Shin Dong-hyuk delivers remarks during an event on human rights in North Korea at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, in New York City, on Sept. 23, 2014

Shin Dong-hyuk's story was the basis for the book Escape From Camp 14

When Shin Dong-hyuk’s life story was published in 2012, CNN hailed it as a “true North Korea survival story.” Born in a notorious North Korean prison complex, Shin endured almost unimaginable deprivation and torture before breaking out, crawling under an electrified fence, and over the body of a fellow prisoner, to flee. The account, Escape From Camp 14, by journalist Blaine Harden, became a New York Times best seller, helping to call global attention to the country’s egregious rights abuses.

Trouble is, it was not all true.

On Friday Jan. 16, Shin told Harden a revised version of the story. While he was born at Camp 14, he spent part of his youth at another complex, Camp 18, escaping twice before landing back at the first camp, he now says. And it was at Camp 18, not at Camp 14, that he betrayed his mother and brother, sharing their plan to escape, and then witnessing their executions. This and other new details came to light after fellow defectors raised questions about the tale. The new timeline, first published by the Washington Post, has yet to be confirmed.

“When I agreed to share my experience for the book, I found it was too painful to think about some of the things that happened,” Shin told Harden. “So I made a compromise in my mind. I altered some details that I thought wouldn’t matter. I didn’t want to tell exactly what happened in order not to relive these painful moments all over again.” Shin also said in a Facebook page that he did not realize that the extent to which these details mattered, and asked forgiveness.

The details, of course, do matter. As one of the most high-profile survivors of North Korea’s political prisons, Shin has done more than most to raise awareness about the camps and the people who suffer there. Doubts about his credibility as a witness — and hence his credibility as a spokesperson — may make people less likely to believe other survivor testimony.

In weighing the revelations, though, it’s worth keeping three things in mind. First, we don’t yet know the full story. In his Facebook post, Shin said he would not be speaking further on the matter. The author, Harden, says he and his publishers will work to find out what really happened and to amend the book. Until they release more details, or others are able to corroborate Shin’s revised story, there will be gaps. The bulk of the story may — or may not — be true.

Second, it is worth considering why survivors of trauma might provide inconsistent or incorrect testimony. As Shin himself says in his Facebook note, recounting torture can be traumatic, especially when it involves the suffering of family members or friends. And Shin’s story is based on childhood and teenage memories of profound suffering and abuse.

Indeed, those who work with North Korean refugees note that obscuring details and withholding information can be a sort of survival strategy. “North Korean refugees can face more challenges than other refugees because they are acutely aware that what they say may affect people back in North Korea,” says Sokeel Park, director of research and strategy at Liberty in North Korea, an NGO that works with North Koreans. “They still feel tied because their relatives, or the people who helped them escape, are there.”

Third, and perhaps most important, with or without Shin’s testimony, there is a wide body of evidence that the prison camps exist — and are absolutely brutal. A U.N. investigation into the country’s rights abuses includes testimony from 80 witnesses, and was also based on accounts by 240 others who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals. “The basic knowledge on how serious this is does not hinge on the details of one person’s story,” says Park.

That’s the same message Shin sent out before stepping away from the spotlight for a while. “Instead of me, you all can still fight,” he wrote. “The world still needs to know of the horrendous and unspeakable horrors that are taking place.”

And that, no doubt, is true.

TIME Argentina

Argentinian Prosecutor Who Accused President of Bomb Plot Cover-Up Found Dead

Argentine prosecutor Nisman, who is investigating the 1994 car-bomb attack on the AMIA Jewish community center, speaks during a meeting with journalists at his office in Buenos Aires
Marcos Brindicci—Reuters Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman at his office in Buenos Aires May 29, 2013.

The cause of death has not yet been confirmed

Alberto Nisman, the prosecutor who accused Argentina’s President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of covering up an investigation into the bombing of a Jewish center, was found dead in his apartment bathroom, authorities said Monday.

Nisman had been investigating a 1994 car bomb attack at a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people and injured hundreds more. In 2006, Nisman and a fellow prosecutor accused Iran of orchestrating the attacks; Iran has consistently denied the charges.

According to the Argentine Security Ministry, Nisman was found dead on Sunday in his apartment in Buenos Aires, next to a handgun and bullet casing.

Nisman was due to take part in a closed-door parliamentary hearings on Monday to reveal the details of his allegations against President Fernandez.

The Clarin daily reported that just a few days earlier, he had told the newspaper, “I could end up dead because of this.”

Prosecutor Viviana Fein told reporters that the state will be determining the cause of death in the coming days.

[Reuters]

TIME Ireland

Irish Minister for Health Announces He’s Gay

Irish Health minister Leo Varadkar, 36, who has publicly come out as gay, pictured here on Dec. 27, 2013.
Brian Lawless—Press Association/AP Irish Health minister Leo Varadkar, 36, who has publicly come out as gay, pictured here on Dec. 27, 2013.

The country is set to hold a referedum on marriage equality in May

Just months before Ireland is due to hold a referendum on marriage equality, the country’s minister for health has come out during a radio interview. Leo Varadkar told RTÉ Radio 1, an Irish radio station, that he was gay and would be campaigning in support of same-sex marriage in the lead up to the referendum in May.

“It’s not a secret — but not something that everyone would necessarily know, but it isn’t something I’ve spoken publicly about before,” he said during the Jan. 18 interview. “I just kind of want to be honest with people. I don’t want anyone to think that I have a hidden agenda.”

He added: “I’d like the referendum to pass because I’d like to be an equal citizen in my own country, the country in which I happen to be a member of Government, and at the moment I’m not.”

Ireland decriminalized homosexuality 22 years ago and same-sex couples have been able to enter a civil partnership since 2011, but not marry.

[RTÉ]

TIME France

Charlie Hebdo Attacker Chérif Kouachi Buried in Unmarked Grave

Suspect's  Wanted In Connection With Attack At The Satirical Weekly Charlie Hebdo
Getty Images Chérif Kouachi.

The grave's location will remain undisclosed to avoid it becoming a site of pilgrimage for extremists

Chérif Kouachi, the 32-year-old gunman who took part in the Jan. 7 attack on French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo was buried in an unmarked grave on Saturday in the Paris suburb of Gennevilliers. Relatives did not attend his funeral.

“His wife did not wish to take part in the funeral. He did not have anyone,” said a French official, according to Agence France-Presse.

His brother, Saïd Kouachi, was buried in the French town of Remis, his home of two years, since he was not a resident of Gennevilliers. French law requires relatives to obtain permission for a burial site through evidence of prior residence.

The location of the graves will remain secret to prevent them potentially becoming sites of jihadist pilgrimage.

[AFP]

TIME Economics

Richest 1% to Boast More Wealth Than Rest of World by 2016

In 2014, the bottom 80% controlled only 5.5% of the world's wealth

Global income inequality is headed for a new milestone with the world’s richest 1% on track to control more wealth than everyone else on the planet by 2016, according to an Oxfam International report released Monday.

The charity also warns that spiraling inequality hampers the fight against global poverty at a time when 1 in 9 people does not have enough to eat and more than a billion people still live on less than $1.25 per day.

“Oxfam’s report is just the latest evidence that inequality has reached shocking extremes, and continues to grow. It is time for the global leaders of modern capitalism, in addition to our politicians, to work to change the system to make it more inclusive, more equitable and more sustainable,” said Oxfam International executive director Winnie Byanyima.

In 2014, the ultra-rich first percentile held 48% of the world’s income. By contrast, the poorest 80% of the world’s population only controlled a paltry 5.5% of its wealth, according to the report.

The study was published a day before U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to announce a significant middle-class tax cut at his State of the Union address.

TIME europe

E.U. Ministers Discuss Jihadist Threat in Wake of Charlie Hebdo Terrorist Attacks

BELGIUM-EU-FRANCE-ATTACKS-MEDIA
Emmanuel Dunand—AFP/Getty Images European Union flags fly at half-mast at the European Parliament in Brussels on Jan. 8, 2015, following the attack against French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo

The meeting comes days after authorities foiled terrorist plots in Belgium, France and Germany

Twenty-eight Foreign Ministers are set to meet in Brussels on Monday to discuss persistent threats against the European Union from Islamist militants, as well as the renewed fighting between the Ukrainian military and separatist insurgents.

However, the ministers are not scheduled to hammer out any decisions regarding how the bloc will respond to threats from potential terror cells, according to Agence France-Presse.

Last week, authorities in Belgium foiled a failed terrorist plot, resulting in the death of two armed suspects. Similar raids were also launched in Germany and France a week after three gunmen linked to Yemen- and Syria-based terrorist networks carried out a series of high-profile attacks across Paris that resulted in the deaths of 17 people, including a dozen at the offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

Thousands of Europeans are believed to have traveled to battlefields in both Iraq and Syria to fight alongside Islamist militias, raising concerns among E.U. officials over what the battle-hardened jihadists are capable of doing if they return home.

The ministers are also slated to discuss renewed tensions between Kiev and Moscow as fighting between the Ukrainian military and pro-Kremlin insurgents has escalated in recent weeks.

Reports swirled on Monday that Ukrainian troops retook Donetsk airport over the weekend after launching a massive counteroffensive against Russian-backed separatists in the area.

TIME Papua New Guinea

Hundreds of Asylum Seekers Are on Hunger Strike Over Australia’s Resettlement Plan

(FILE) Manus Island Detention Centre
Handout—Getty Images In this handout photo provided by the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship, are seen facilities at the Manus Island Regional Processing Facility, used for the detention of asylum seekers who arrive by boat, primarily to Christmas Island off the Australian mainland, on Oct. 16, 2012, on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea

Several are refusing water and have sown their lips shut

Nearly 700 detainees, or almost two-thirds of those held in an Australian offshore detention center on Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) Manus Island, are on hunger strike to protest Canberra’s plan to permanently resettle them on the island.

The hunger strike comes in the wake of a vow by Australia’s recently appointed Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, that Manus Island detainees would “never arrive in Australia,” reports the Sydney Morning Herald.

During the past week, hundreds of detainees have abstained from food, and some from water, over the government’s plan to move them to the nearby town of Lorengau. As many as 14 have sown their lips together, the Herald says.

Visiting Australian medical staff and refugee rights groups say that health facilities on Manus Island center are not equipped to handle the hunger strike.

“They don’t have the capacity to handle a hunger strike of even one-tenth of that size,” said Doctors for Refugees member Barri Phatarfod.

[Sydney Morning Herald]

TIME ebola

Mali Is Now Ebola-Free

Mali Ebola Spared No More
Baba Ahmed—AP A health worker sprays disinfectants near a mosque, after the body of a man suspected of dying from the Ebola virus was washed inside before being buried in Bamako, Mali

The country has gone 42 days without reporting a new case

Mali is officially Ebola-free after going 42 days without reporting a new case, according to the World Health Organization.

The country’s Health Minister Ousmane Kone made an announcement during a national broadcast on Sunday night.

During his speech, Kone heaped praise on the country’s health workers and Malian authorities for “weeks of intense work” that led to the result, according to Agence France-Presse.

Mali recorded its first Ebola case in October after a 2-year-old contracted the deadly virus. Following the incident, the country launched a massive eradication campaign.

In total, the disease only infected eight people in the country, but six of them were killed by it, according to statistics compiled by the WHO.

More than 8,400 people have succumbed to the deadly virus in West Africa.

TIME Gadgets

Watch the Latest Must-Have Smart Toys Unveiled at Asia’s Largest Toy Fair

Marvel at the next generation of smart toys

Asia’s biggest toy-and-game fair has just ended in Hong Kong with smart toys predictably stealing the show.

Organized by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC), the four-day Toy and Game Fair boasted around 2,000 exhibitors hailing from over 40 countries, and is the second largest industry event in the world.

One big trend for 2015 saw traditional toys getting a high-tech makeover.

“The global trend nowadays is talking about technology and innovation,” Sophia Chong, assistant executive director for HKTDC, tells TIME. “So all buyers wanting something new are looking for technology that can be implanted or integrated with traditional play things.”

Educational toys that feature interactive learning were a big hit at the show. Learning Alphabet With Alpaca, from APPS1010, teaches kids how to spell by using augmented reality, imposing a computer-generated image on the user’s view of the real world. The app can even link up to social media so parents can become involved in their children’s play.

But the “toy” that dazzled most was the Inspire advanced drone system from DJI. It comes equipped with a professional 4K super high-resolution camera, state-of-the-art landscape positioning system and has dual controls so the pilot can focus on navigating while the camera operator simply shoots the film.

“The concept of 4K is something that’s four times better than HD, so it’s able to be shown on the big screen at the cinema,” says Lou Tze-ming, managing director for Windrider RSB Aviation, suppliers for DJI. “It’s the highest level in the industry.”

The Toy and Game Fair was run concurrently with the 2015 Baby Products Fair, the International Licensing Show and International Stationary Fair, and aims to connect businesses and buyers from all around the globe.

“The overriding element is internationality,” says Chong. “It is very important for [exporters] to get into the market place and to show to the buyers their newest products.”

TIME Nigeria

4 Dead, 35 Hurt in Suicide Bombing in Northeast Nigeria

Five killed in Nigeria's Potiskum suicide bombing
Anadolu Agency/Getty Images Wreckage of a car is seen after a suicide bombing which killed at least five people and injured many others in Potiskum of Yobe State in Nigeria on Jan. 18, 2015

Blast comes amid heightening tensions as national polls near

Four people were killed and 35 wounded after a suicide bomber detonated a car packed with explosives at a bus station in Potiskum, a town in northeast Nigeria, on Sunday.

Although no one immediately claimed responsibility for the blast, investigators believe Jihadist group Boko Haram are the most likely culprits, reports Reuters.

“The information I have is that the car was pretending to be scouting for passengers,” Yobe state police commissioner Danladi Marcus told the news agency.

Nigeria is seeing spiraling violence ahead of general elections pitting incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan against former junta chief Muhammadu Buhari. The polls are considered the closest contest since military rule ended in 1999.

[Reuters]

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