North Korea to pardon convicts
SEOUL NORTH Korea said on Tuesday it will issue special pardons for convicts, a rare move that appeared to be aimed at boosting the popularity of young new leader Kim Jong-un as he attempts to fill his late father’s shoes.
Efforts to show Kim is firmly in control have provided a drumbeat of news reports in state media since his father, Kim Jong-il, died on December 17.
On Tuesday, North Korea’s state television showed top military officers again swearing fervent pledges of loyalty, vowing to become human “rifles and bombs” to defend Kim Jong-un, who was recently appointed supreme commander of the armed forces.
The amnesty, to be issued beginning on February 1, is to commemorate what would have been Kim Jong-il’s 70th birthday in February and the 100th anniversary in April of the birth of his father, North Korea founder Kim Il-sung.
The North’s Korean Central News Agency did not say what sorts of crimes would be pardoned or how many inmates would be freed.
The pardons will be the first such dispensations in more than six years.
The measure appears aimed at winning public confidence for Kim Jong-un as the country struggles to revive its troubled economy, said Kim Kwang-in, a researcher at the Seoul-based North Korea Strategy Center.
A UN envoy on human rights in North Korea said last year that the country is estimated to hold up to 200,000 people in political prison camps.
The North has denied the existence of gulags. North Korea occasionally marks significant holidays by granting amnesties, and Pyongyang has promoted this year’s Kim Il-sung centenary as a significant milestone in the country’s history.
North Korea last conducted such a special pardon in August 2005 to mark the 60th anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japanese colonial rule, according to South Korea’s Unification Ministry.Soldiers and top military officers, meanwhile, pledged to “live or die” with Kim Jong-un and shouted slogans such as “Devoted defence of Kim Jong-un,” state television showed. Later on Monday, troops later marched outside Kumsusan Memorial Palace, where Kim Il-sung’s body lies in state, as thick haze blanketed the plaza. Neither Kim Jong-un nor senior ruling party officials were seen at the rally.
Neither Kim Jong-un nor senior ruling party officials were seen at the rally.
We will build a 10,000-fold bulwark for protecting the supreme commander and become rifles and bombs to serve as Kim Jong-un firstline lifeguards and Kim Jongun first-line death-defying corps,” Ri Yong-yo, chief of the military’s general staff, said, his voice resonating across the plaza as thousands of troops stood in neat columns.
A large signboard standing from the troops read, “Let’s unite, unite and unite around dear comrade Kim Jong-un,” the footage showed.
In a well-choreographed joint pledge of allegiance, nine troops from army, air force and navy stood in a row and vowed “merciless retaliation” should their enemies attack.
North Korea has staged a series of rallies nationwide vowing to unite around Kim Jong-un and uphold his father’s “military-first policy.