A North Korean nuclear scientist who defected to China while taking a break to deal with “anxiety over his research projects” committed suicide in a prison cell after being captured in China and sent back to North Korea, according to a source inside the hermit communist kingdom who spoke to Radio Free Asia.
“He killed himself only a few hours after he was placed in solitary confinement at the State Security Department in Sinuiju city,” the source said.
The scientist worked on research at the State Academy of Sciences in Pyongyang. He was one of several North Koreans caught in Shenyang, China, in early November. The group was sent back to North Korea on Nov. 17.
“He died before he could be questioned about the reasons for his escape, who had helped him, and what his route had been,” the source said.
The man took poison while in a prison cell.
“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,” the source said.
While in the hands of the Chinese authorities, the nuclear scientist never disclosed his identity, which may have been a fatal mistake, according to the source.
“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,” the source 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.”
According to the source, the man was in his 50s and took time off from work “because he was showing signs of anxiety over his research projects.” The scientist visited relatives near the border but did not have valid travel documents. When the scientist found out that authorities were looking for him, he fled.
The defector was identified in early December as Hyun Cheol Huh, according to the RFA source.
“But we don’t know if this was his real name or not,” he said. “Generally, State Security will use numbers or fake names when referring to important persons [in their custody],” he said.
2017 Year in Review