Following a massive release of prisoners in
light of Korea’s liberation day from Japan’s colonial rule on August 15,
Pyongyang issued a second round of pardons for prisoners ahead of the recent
70th anniversary of the foundation of the Workers’ Party celebrated on October 10.
The release was carried out across two days
— October 8, 9 — but most prisoners were said to be in dire condition, either
suffering from malnutrition or having fallen sick. Although state propaganda
promoted the sweeping amnesty as an act of benevolence from Kim Jong Un, the
released prisoners would not have been able to continue serving their sentences
due to their ailing conditions, Daily NK has learned.
“To mark the 70th Party foundation day, the
state granted amnesty to prisoners serving in 12 re-education camps [kyohwaso]
nationwide, and labor-training camps in each province, city and county,” a
source from South Pyongan Province told Daily NK on Tuesday. “This is the
second amnesty to be issued this year, following the first in August, and
thousands of prisoners have been released.”
An additional source in South Pyongan Province corroborated this news.
The vast majority of prisoners who were let
go of were suffering from malnutrition and barely getting by. The second pardon
recipients were mostly those who were too weak to get out during the first
amnesty after being beaten and tortured, and authorities had used the two-month
window to see them gain some semblance of recovery, according to the source.
“The amnesty was promoted widely, and it
was said that they were able to get out thanks to the General’s (Kim Jong Un)
love and understanding, but they’re in fact just those who were too weak or
sick to endure labor at the re-education camps,” he said.
Included in the recent group of prisoners
is a large number of defectors who were repatriated from other countries such
as China, Vietnam, Laos, and Mongolia. They would have been labeled political
prisoners and sent to a political prison camp [kwanliso], but some hundreds of
them benefited from the release, according to the source.
“But those who are already in the political
prison camp system under the Ministry of State Security were not released,” he explained. “As was the case in the first round, the prisoners mostly include
people with minor offenses, white collar crimes, those in for assault or people
involved in drugs. Also, a significant number of their families paid bribes in
exchange for their release.”
During the release
at each re-education camp, officials carried out a high-profile ‘benevolent
release’ ceremony and received signed pledges from the prisoners not only
saying they will not commit crimes again but they will keep mum on details
related to the camp.
Provincial Party cadres are also assembling
state-run enterprise workers and inminban [people’s unit, or neighborhood
watch] and lecturing them on how the release was due to the leader’s love and
care. Although these speeches are unconvincing to people on the whole, most are nonetheless pleased about the reduced sentences for the prisoners, the source added.