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ICC Note: Ahead of the 70th anniversary of North Korea’s foundation day, the country plans to grant a general amnesty next month for those who had been convicted of the crimes against the country and people. It is unknown whether or not Christian prisoners will be released, though being a Christian in itself is a crime against the state. The estimate of North Korean Christians currently imprisoned is at 50,000.

07/16/2018 North Korea (Japan Times) – North Korea is planning to grant a general amnesty next month in the run-up to the 70th anniversary of its foundation day in September, state media said Monday, in an echo of moves done before other key dates in the nuclear-armed country’s history.

The North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency said Monday that the amnesty would be granted for “those who had been convicted of the crimes against the country and people.” It said the process would take effect starting Aug. 1.

“The DPRK Cabinet and relevant organs will take practical measures to help the released people settle down to normal working life,” KCNA said in the report.

The North is believed to have carried out several other general amnesties under leader Kim Jong Un, with the last coming in 2015, when it marked the 70th anniversary of the Korean Peninsula’s liberation from Japanese colonial rule and the founding of the ruling Workers’ Party.

The wording of Monday’s amnesty was virtually identical to the 2015 announcement.

It also granted amnesties in 2012, to celebrate the centennial of the birth of Kim’s grandfather and the founder of the North, Kim Il Sung, and the 70th birthday of his father, Kim Jong Il, the same year.

The estimated population of North Korea’s prison and gulag system is believed to be around 200,000 men, women and children, according to rights groups, with most held for political and not criminal reasons.

A comprehensive report published in 2014 by a United Nations commission concluded that conditions in normal North Korean prisons were often every bit as harsh as those in the political gulags.

It said many of those held are imprisoned without trial or any kind of due process, adding that beatings and sexual abuse of prisoners were commonplace.

Those findings were hotly contested by Pyongyang.

Duyeon Kim, a visiting senior fellow at the Korean Peninsula Future Forum in Seoul, said that it appeared the North might be working to bolster solidarity, unity and loyalty before the anniversary and “maybe even show (the) world it’s improving human rights.”

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