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North Korea Defends Rights Record at UN Briefing

North Korean defectors shout slogans during a press conference demanding the improvement of North Korean's human rights, in front of National Human Rights Commission of Korea in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014.

North Korea is defending its human rights record, even while acknowledging it runs labor camps that have been slammed by rights groups as inhumane.

The comments came Tuesday during a rare briefing with reporters and foreign diplomats at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

It was seen as a rebuttal to a recent U.N. report that concluded Pyongyang is guilty of crimes against humanity, including murder, torture, enslavement, rape and other abuses.

Many of the abuses allegedly occur at the North's notorious prison camps, where tens of thousands of people are believed to be held.

At the briefing, North Korean foreign ministry official Choe Myong Nam repeated his country's long-standing assertion there are no such camps.

But he acknowledged the existence of reform-through-labor detention centers, where he said "people are improved through their mentality and look upon their wrongdoings."

North Korea has long been seen as having the world's worst human rights record. The issue has been given extra attention since the February U.N. Commission of Inquiry.

Choe slammed the U.N. report as "wild rumors and fictions," calling it a dishonest and hostile attempt to tarnish North Korea and overthrow its government.

He acknowledged North Korea may suffer economic problems, but said even these are the fault of "external forces," a reference to international sanctions imposed on the communist state.

Elements of the U.N. report are expected to be included in an upcoming General Assembly resolution criticizing North Korea's human rights record.

The resolution, which is put forward by the European Union and Japan each year, could call for prosecutions against the North for crimes against humanity.

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