The move is meant “to consolidate the new leader’s power,” a North Korean source told AsiaNews. “The amnesty was part of Kim Il-sung’s centennial celebration, which was supposed to be a test for the heir. His father, who passed away on 17 December, had given him the task to mark the anniversary with a big housing project. However, the latter was a failure, and the government decided to open the prisons to make people forget the rest.”
North Korea’s prisons hold between 200,000 and 500,000 people, according to international NGOs. In the world’s last Stalinist state, people can be sent to forced labour camps for failing to dust portraits of the country’s leader, which North Koreans are required to keep at home. The few Christians left are deemed traitors and are more victimised than others.
“The amnesty is not a prize but a sentence,” the source told AsiaNews. “From what we know, food shortages have worsened since the death of the ‘dear leader’. In order to hold onto power, soldiers are becoming more arrogant. This is especially true in the provinces far from the capital. This is a concern for all of us. Kim Jong-un wants to show that he and the army are the strongest.”