A number of criminals judged to have committed their crimes due to poverty were granted an amnesty in commemoration of the 65th anniversary of the Workers’ Party founding in September, in a move characterized as being a result of Kim Jong Eun’s boundless consideration for the North Korean people. However, this has led to serious adverse effects.
A Daily NK source reported on the 12th that, upon a decision of the Standing Committee of the Supreme People’s Assembly, the North Korean authorities reduced the prison terms of around 150,000 criminals across the country in the amnesty, entitled “On the reduction of prison terms for prisoners in commemoration of the 65th anniversary of the Party founding and the Party Delegates’ Conference.”
For example, around 1,500 out of 2,100 prisoners in No. 12 Reeducation Camp under the Reform Department of the People’s Safety Ministry in Pungsan-ri, formerly Jeongeo-ri, Hoiryeong, North Hamkyung Province had their sentences reduced.
According to the source, “Around 250 prisoners were released and three special contributors had their sentences reduced by four years, 20 model prisoners by three years, and around 1,500 other general prisoners by two years.”
He added, “Only violent offenders (robbers, murderers and rapists) sentenced under article 141 of the Penal Code and human trafficking offenders (defector-related offences) under article 117 of the Penal Code were excluded.”
After the head of the camp announced the list of prisoners who would benefit, he reportedly added, “Those who are being released and having their sentences reduced should feel deeply the consideration of the Youth Captain,” going on to say, “The consideration given by the Party is not a gift sent equally to everybody, but only to those who have done well, and gives more consideration to them.”
Generally, amnesties in North Korea are undertaken on every fifth birthday of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il and the founding day of the Party, ratified by Kim Jong Il after the Standing Committee of the SPA submits a proposal to him. The 12 reeducation camps under the PSM then decide the scale of the amnesty, depending on the size of the prison population.
However, the amnesties can have undesirable consequences, and this one is no different; the PSM has been reportedly devoting itself to filling up the empty camps, because each camp contains production units.
The source said, “The PSM was concentrating on criminal investigations even before the official announcement of the amnesty, because they had received indications of the decree. With the help of the Prosecutors’ Office, they caught a lot of people and kept them in detention centers, then after the announcement they started putting them in camps.”
“In 2002, commemorating the 60th birthday of the General (Kim Jong Il), although around 30 percent of the prisoners in each camp were released, the same amount of prisoners filled the former prisoners’ places.”
The 12 reeducation camps in North Korea each have unique production facilities. In the No. 12 Camp in Hoiryeong, for example, there is a wooden goods factory, copper mine, dressing plant, limestone mine and farms. Defectors suggest that the profits from these factories cover 80% of the management costs of the PSM.
The camps can be found all over the country including Pyongyang, Kaechoen and Sariwon in South Pyongan Province, Deokwon in Kangwon Province, Hamheung and Hoiryeong.