North Korea to Pardon Prisoners to Mark Kims’ Birthdays

Posted January 10th, 2012 at 3:10 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

North Korea plans to pardon an unspecified number of convicts next month to mark the upcoming milestone birthdays of its two late leaders, Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung.

The official Korean Central News Agency said Tuesday the amnesty would begin on February 1, by order of a parliamentary decree. But it did not say what crimes would be pardoned or how many prisoners would be released.

The amnesty is meant to commemorate the birthdays of former leader Kim Jong Il, who would have turned 70 in February, and his father, North Korea founder Kim Il Sung, whose 100th birthday is in April.

North Korea occasionally releases prisoners on significant anniversaries. South Korea's Unification Ministry says Pyongyang last held a special amnesty in 2005 to mark the 60th anniversary of liberation from Japanese colonial rule.

Human rights groups estimate some 200,000 people are held in North Korean prison camps, where torture is believed to be prevalent and living conditions can be deadly.

The Tuesday report in KCNA said the most recent amnesty embodies the “noble, benevolent and all-embracing politics” of the two Kims, whose birthdays are celebrated as national holidays.

North Korea's new leader, Kim Jong Un, is thought to have turned 28 or 29 on Sunday, though his birthday is not yet recognized as a holiday. His father, Kim Jong Il, died of a heart attack on December 17.