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

Multimedia US Defense Secretary: Iraqi Forces Lack 'Will to Fight'

Ash Carter criticizes Iraq's reaction to Islamic State; National Security Advisor Susan Rice echoed Carter's concerns in an interview on CBS More

Boko Haram Surrounds Havens With Land Mines

Chad and Cameroon say huge numbers of land mines planted by Boko Haram fighters along Cameroon's border with Nigeria are a danger to people, livestock and soldiers More

Women Peace Activists Cross Korean DMZ

Governments of Koreas give international delegation of women peace activists permission to pass through heavily fortified border, but some critics say symbolic crossing only benefits Pyongyang 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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs