Amnesty to be applied to convicts in DPRK

UPDATE 3 (2012-2-9): ICNK reports that the amnesty was put into motion before Kim Jong-il’s death:

On January 10, KCNA announced a prisoner amnesty be conducted in February. Within North Korea, the move is being propagandized as a sign of the benevolence of their new leader, Kim Jong Un, in a bid to popularize him, bolstering his position as his father’s replacement.

However, the amnesty was clearly being planned long before Kim’s succession, originally to commemorate the 100th birthday of Kim Il Sung, the 70th birthday of Kim Jong Il and to mark 2012 as the year of the “Strong and Prosperous State”.

The amnesty is also seen as an attempt to pacify discontent citizens within the North, temporarily placating the population while also alleviating international pressure on the regime for its human rights abuses. The amnesty will also benefit authorities in that it will ease some of the burden on the camps’ overpopulation and food supply.

In early February, an ORNK source from Hyesan, Yangkang Province said, “Some elites and upper class people laugh at this amnesty, saying that since the authorities will not be able to meet the promise to make a ‘Strong and Prosperous State’, they did it instead of achieving the strong state so as to cover up their failure.” Meanwhile, others have claimed that, “They carried it out only because they didn’t have any space in prisons, but the authorities try to show off their benevolent policies.”

Previous amnesties have been held in 2002, 2005 and 2010 to celebrate Kim Il Sung’s birthday and anniversaries of the establishment of the Workers’ Party. In 2005, North Korean authorities said “The amnesty is to realize the generosity and magnanimity of our Party, which establishes the will and achievements of Suryeong (Kim Il Sung) and brightens the 60th liberation of the country and founding day of the Chosun Worker’s Party.”

UPDATE 2 (2012-2-7): As of today there has been no further information released about the amnesty–either in terms of numbers released, the crimes they are alleged to have committed, or the areas from which they originate or were incarcerated, or the type of facilities in which they were held.

UPDATE 1 (2012-1-11): Accordign to Xinhua, the pardons will be the first in more than six years.

ORIGINAL POST (2012-1-10): According to KCNA (2012-1-10):

Pyongyang, January 10 (KCNA) — The DPRK will apply amnesty to convicts from February 1 on the occasion of the centenary of birth of President Kim Il Sung and the 70th birth anniversary of leader Kim Jong Il, according to a decree of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly of the DPRK on Jan. 5.

The Cabinet and relevant organs will take working measures for those to be released thanks to the amnesty to work and live under stable conditions.

It is the steadfast will of the Workers’ Party of Korea and state to embody generation after generation the noble benevolent and all-embracing politics of President Kim Il Sung and leader Kim Jong Il who energetically worked till the last moments of their great lives, undergoing all sufferings for the people’s happiness throughout them, always finding themselves among them, the decree said.

This story was also covered by the Daily NK, and the BBC.

This may not be Kim Jong-un’s first amnesty. The Daily NK reports that 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 2010.

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