Kim Jong-un to grant large-scale pardon to prisoners, hopes to relieve public fear

July 14, 2015


By Yi Whan-woo

North Korea will grant special pardons next month in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japanese colonial rule and the foundation of the Workers’ Party (WP), Pyongyang’s state-controlled media reported Tuesday.

“In an ordinance issued by the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA), the country has decided to offer a large-scale amnesty on the landmark year to those who are convicted of crimes,” the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

The SPA is the North’s rubber-stamp legislature. The pardon is expected to be issued on Aug. 1, according to the KCNA.

“Our Cabinet and related organizations will come up with practical measures to help prisoners to return to ordinary life when they are released,” the agency said, without elaborating how many people will be freed.

North Korea previously granted prisoner amnesty on a large scale in 2012 to commemorate the 70th birthday of the late Kim Jong-il in February and the 100th anniversary of the birth of the late Kim Il-sung in April.

It also pardoned prisoners in 2005 to mark the 60th anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japan’s colonial rule on Aug. 15 and establishment of the WP on Oct. 10.

An analyst said Kim Jong-un may seek to stabilize his regime amid prevalent fear in North Korea over his extreme reign of terror.

“I’d say he is trying to soothe people’s fear and win their support by showing mercy,” said Chang Yong-seok, a senior researcher at Seoul National University Institute for Peace and Unification Studies.

Sources familiar with North Korea, however, forecast political prisoners will be excluded from the pardons.

Kim Jong-un, who is in his 30s, has purged and executed more than 70 officials since coming to power in December 2011 after Kim Jong-il’s death, according to South Korea’s National Intelligence Service. The move is seen as an attempt to tighten his grip over veteran military and political officials.

They include Hyon Yong-chol, Pyongyang’s former defense minister who was believed to be executed by an anti-aircraft gun in April for snoozing during a meeting presided by Kim Jong-un and committing other “treasons.”

Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se said on July 9 that a number of North Koreans staying abroad are increasingly swayed by their leaders’ reign of terror. He added some of them actually seek asylum.