September 27, 2023

Lies and confessions: how some get through North Korea’s self-criticism sessions

Two North Koreans explain their experiences in North Korea's infamous "self-criticism" sessions

During Merrill Newman’s five-week detention in North Korea last year, he appeared on video, confessing to committing “indelible crimes against DPRK government and Korean people” 60 years before. Newman, an 85 year-old Korean War veteran from California, was released 42 days later. North Korea’s official news agency KCNA said it was thanks to his ‘admittance of the act’ and ‘sincere repentance’.

Shortly after he returned home, Newman released a statement about his “confession,” confirming that anyone “who has read the text of it or who has seen the video of me reading it knows that the words were not mine and were not delivered voluntarily.”