A North Korean nuclear researcher who tried to flee the country before being captured and sent home has killed himself.
The scientist was set to be interrogated about why he defected to China, but took poison and died just hours after being placed in solitary confinement, Radio Free Asia reported.
He was detained by police in China along with a group of other North Koreans on November 4, and was sent back on November 17, but new details about the case have emerged.
A source told Radio Free Asia: ‘He died before he could be questioned about the reasons for his escape, who had helped him, and what his route had been.
‘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 man was identified by North Korean officials as Hyun Cheol Huh, aged in his early 50s.
But doubt has been cast on whether this information was correct, as the state often uses fake names when referring to its prisoners.
He led a research team at the physics centre at the State Academy of Sciences in Pyongyang, but had been ‘showing signs of anxiety over his research projects’, the source said.
The source added: ‘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.’
When the man was found by local police, he did not tell them what he did for a job, the source said.
If he had done so, it is likely he would not have been sent back to North Korea, and it may have saved his life.
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