Sunday, October 18, 2009

S. Korean lawmaker highlights North Korean political prisoners

North Korea is estimated to be holding some 154,000 political prisoners in six large camps across the country, a South Korean lawmaker said Saturday.

Yoon Sang-hyun, a lawmaker with the ruling Grand National Party, stated that North Korean political prisoners are sent to the camps without trial and are condemned to life in prison in five of them, despite the North’s new constitution calling for respecting human rights.

Prisoners are forced to toil for more than 10 hours a day, are fed a poor diet and do not receive medical aid. They are also banned from communicating with their families while in prison, Yoon said in the statement.

Yoon’s aide said his office got the figures and other information on prison camps from the South Korean government as part of ongoing annual parliamentary inspections of the government ministries and agencies. He did not say how the South Korean government obtained the information.

In April, the North revised its constitution to say the state "respects and protects" human rights, according to South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which handles North Korean relations. Activists, however, say the North’s abuses on its citizens remain unchanged.

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