In the News – North Korea Announces It Will Release Prisoners
Published: January 10, 2012
SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea said on Tuesday that it would release prisoners in its first special amnesty in seven years, a day after soldiers paraded in the capital, Pyongyang, vowing to become “rifles and bombs” to defend the country’s new leader, Kim Jong-un. The military rally in Pyongyang on Monday and the special pardon, effective from Feb. 1, came as North Korea escalated a campaign to consolidate support for Mr. Kim.
The North’s official Korean Central News Agency reported that the special pardon was part of national celebrations to observe the 70th anniversary in February of the birth of Kim Jong-il, the new leader’s father, who died on Dec. 17, and the 100th anniversary in April of the birth of Kim Il-sung, the founder of North Korea.
But it did not reveal what sort of criminals would be pardoned or how many inmates would be freed. For years, international human rights groups have claimed that up to 200,000 people are being held in political prison camps, and many more in other penal institutions.
North Korea granted the last such pardon in August 2005 to mark the 60th anniversary of the ruling Workers’ Party.
In recent weeks, rallies have been held across North Korea, with factory workers and soldiers swearing loyalty to Mr. Kim. On Monday, the rallies reached Pyongyang, where navy, army and air force members paraded.
“We will build a 10,000-fold bulwark for protecting the supreme commander and become rifles and bombs to serve as Kim Jong-un’s first-line lifeguards and Kim Jong-un’s first-line death-defying corps,” Vice Marshal Ri Yong-ho, chief of the general staff, said in a statement pledging the military’s allegiance to Mr. Kim.
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