‘Political prisoners in N.K. reduced to 80,000-120,000’
Published : 2013-03-05 20:43
Updated : 2013-03-05 20:43
North Korea may have reduced the number of political prisoners and closed one of its notorious political prison camps, a report in Seoul said, suggesting that the changes, however, do not mean improvement in the human rights conditions in the country.
The report by the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul said, “A minimum of 80,000 to a maximum of 120,000 political prisoners are estimated to be detained in five political prisons.”
The report said last year’s closure of the political prison camp in Hoeryong, North Hamgyong Province, may have brought the total number of political concentration camps to five.
The figures compare with the government’s estimation of around 154,000 political prisoners in the North, submitted to the National Assembly in October 2009.
The cuts in the estimated numbers of political prisoners and prison camps, however, do not reflect any improvement or changes in the North’s policies toward the political prisoners, the report said.
Deaths stemming from severe forced labor and dire prison conditions may have led to the cuts, it said, adding those detained in the Hoeryong camp have been moved to other areas, according to the report which cited remarks by North Korean defectors in South Korea and satellite images.
“It’s difficult to say that the reduction in the number of prison camps was the result of any changes in the North Korean authorities’ stance or policy toward political prisons,” the report said. “Even after Kim Jong-un took power, the North still maintains political prison camps in order to isolate those that pose threats to the regime and other potentially risky forces.”
The Washington-based U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, however, rejected similar reports in October last year that were previously raised by other media outlets, saying the Hoeryong camp, also known as Camp No. 22, is still in operation. (Yonhap News)