A North Korean defector who was forced to return to the country after being detained in China has killed himself with poison while waiting to be interrogated by authorities on why he escaped.
The defector, believed to be in his 50s, was a nuclear scientist and researcher at the physics center of the State Academy of Sciences in Pyongyang.
He was part of a group of North Koreans detained in Shenyang city, China, on November 4 and forced to return to North Korea on November 17.
“He killed himself only a few hours after he was placed in solitary confinement at the State Security Department in Sinuiju city” just across the border from China, RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“He died before he could be questioned about the reasons for his escape, who had helped him, and what his route had been,” he said.
“He must have been searched many times while being taken from China to Sinuiju, so it’s a mystery how he was able to conceal the poison he took,” he said.
Before fleeing to China, the defector had taken leave from his research job ‘because he was showing signs of anxiety over his research projects’, the insider said.
‘Suddenly, he visited relatives near the border without letting his family know and without carrying valid documents for travel,’ the insider told RFA. ‘And when he learned that the authorities were looking for him, he simply disappeared.’
The had previously been named by North Korean insiders as Hyun Cheol Huh, but it is unclear if that is his real name, as officials sometimes use fake names to refer to people in custody.
Officials are now investigating how the man crossed the Yalu River into China and when he met up with other defectors.
The man had reportedly not revealed to Chinese officials that he was a nuclear scientist.