N. Korea to Free Prisoners for Kim Jong Il's Birthday

Likely another move to shore up support for Kim Jong Un

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Jan 10, 2012 9:20 AM CST

(Newser) – North Korea has announced a round of special pardons for some of its prisoners in honor of what would have been Kim Jong Il's 70th birthday next month, in what the Telegraph sees as an attempt to boost the popularity of Dear Leader's heir, Kim Jong Un. The announcement, made by the state-run Korean Central News Agency, didn't specify how many prisoners would be freed, or what sorts of crimes might be forgiven.

North Korea has a history of celebrating major holidays with pardons, but hasn't done so in six years. The UN envoy on human rights alleges that it has as many as 200,000 political prisoners in detention camps, though Pyongyang denies that such camps even exist. "Public sentiments aren't very good, so the authorities aimed to appease them," one South Korean researcher speculates.

This television screen grab taken from North Korean TV on January 3, 2012 shows thousands of North Koreans as they hold a mass rally in support for their country's policies and new leader Kim Jong-Un at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang on January 3, 2012.
This television screen grab taken from North Korean TV on January 3, 2012 shows thousands of North Koreans as they hold a mass rally in support for their country's policies and new leader Kim Jong-Un...   (Getty Images/AFP Photo/North Korean TV)
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