News / Asia

Report: N. Korea Holding Fewer Political Prisoners

FILE - Kim Jong-un
FILE - Kim Jong-un
The number of political prisoners in North Korea is significantly lower than previously thought, according to South Korea’s latest white paper on the Stalinist country’s human rights situation.
 
The Korea Institute for National Unification (KINU), South Korea’s state-run research institute, estimates the number of political prisoners in the North to be somewhere between 80,000 and 120,000.
 
That is a drastic drop from previous estimates of 150,000 to 200,000.
 
Based on in-depth interviews of some 240 North Korean defectors, the white paper noted that one of the six prison camps in the North, Camp 22 in North Hamgyeong Province, was shut down in May 2012.
 
In addition, Camp 18 in South Pyongan Province downsized from holding some 190,000 prisoners to around 4,000 after being relocated to North Pyongan Province.
 
The institute indicated, however, that the shrinking number of prison camps and prisoners is due to rise in the death toll from forced labor and rules that ban childbirth inside the camps, not because of shift in Pyongyang’s stance.
 
"The mere existence of prison camps continues to play a strong role in suppressing North Korean citizens from revolting politically," said Keum-soon Lee, head of the Center for North Korean Human Rights Studies, the research body of KINU.
 
Public executions increased
 
The white paper said public executions of those charged with drug-related crimes increased in 2012 and the following year. It cites an insufficient medical system, bureaucracy, and prevalent psychological despair in the rigidly controlled society as the main reasons.
 
The North Korean government reformed its criminal codes two years ago and stipulated those involved in drug trafficking and smuggling would face the death penalty.
 
KINU also noted gross human rights violations against North Korean expats.
 
The South Korean institute estimates some 45,000 North Koreans are working overseas. The largest number of expats, around 25,000, work in Russia. Around 17,000 and 8,000 are employed in Mongolia and throughout the Middle East respectively, according to the white paper.
 
The expats work an average of 16 hours a day and pay roughly 80 to 90 percent of their wages to Kim Jong-un’s regime.
 
"The North Korean workers live as a group and are constantly monitored," said Kyu-chang Lee, a researcher with the Center for Inter-Korean Integration Studies. "If they complain, they will be physically assaulted by the North Korean officials there or forced to return to the North."
 
Outside influence encouraged
 
The think tank urged the international community to take interest in the issue,  as cash-strapped Pyongyang relies more heavily on the expat community for foreign currency than ever before.
 
The report comes as the special U.N. investigator for human rights in North Korea said Thursday that the world body must do more to hold Pyongyang accountable for abuses of its own citizens.

Marzuki Darusman said the U.N. Security Council is the only body that can refer perpetrators to the International Criminal Court. He said China and other countries that have influence on North Korea should be urged to increase pressure on the government to end its violations.
 
This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Korean service.

You May Like

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land In French Port

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching 'Fortress Europe' More

Video Westgate Mall Attack Survivors Confront Painful Memories

On anniversary of terror attack, survivors discuss how they have coped with trauma they experienced that day More

New Hints That Dark Matter Exists

New evidence from International Space Station hints at existence of dark matter and dark energy More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: stephen from: Michigan, USA
June 24, 2014 11:29 AM
The reason why the prison population is down is because they are dead of starvation and other cruel acts. If they don't have the population to run those facilities, then they are closed, duhhhhhh! Political prisoners will be exonerated when N. Korea get the war they want. Kim needs to work on getting modernized water reservoirs and aquifers to make sure they have enough water for their crops. It will be another famine there if that's not done and the whole prison system will be closed if he don't because they will take what water they have and grow crops and neglect the prisoners. Sad day to be a prisoner in N. K.


by: Frank from: USA
June 20, 2014 12:12 AM
Kim II Sung murdered 700,000 North Koreans.

In Response

by: ER
June 20, 2014 9:56 AM
Yes but he built a workers paradise.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calaisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 19, 2014 5:04 PM
The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video CERN Accelerator Back in Business

The long upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider is over. The scientific instrument responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson -- the so-called "God particle" -- is being brought up to speed in time for this month's 60th anniversary of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN. Physicists hope the accelerator will help them uncover more secrets about the origins of the universe. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid