A North Korean official has publicly acknowledged to the international community the existence of his country’s “reform through labour” camps, apparently in response to a highly critical UN human rights report.

Diplomats for the regime also told reporters that a top North Korea official had visited the headquarters of the European Union and expressed interest in dialogue, with discussions on human rights expected next year.

Choe Myong-nam, a North Korean foreign ministry official in charge of UN affairs and human rights issues, said at a briefing with reporters that his country had no prison camps. But he briefly discussed the “reform through labour” camps, describing them as “detention centres where people are improved through their mentality and look on their wrongdoings”.

Such “re-education” labor camps are for common offenders and some political prisoners, but most political prisoners are known to be held in a harsher system of political prison camps.

The North Korean briefing concerned a lengthy human rights report it released last month in response to a UN commission of inquiry that concluded the regime had committed crimes against humanity. “We dare say that the case of human rights in the DPRK exceeds all others in duration, intensity and horror,” commission head Michael Kirby told the UN security council in April.

The report’s release in February put the North on the defensive. Its public acknowledgement on Tuesday of the reform camps, and its overture to the EU rights chief, were signs that Pyongyang had realised the discussion of its human rights record would not fade away, said Greg Scarlatoiu, executive director of the Washington-based Committee for Human Rights in North Korea.

“While the North Korean human rights record remains abysmal, it is very important that senior North Korean officials are now speaking about human rights, and expressing even pro forma interest in dialogue,” Scarlatoiu said.

Scarlatoiu stressed it was not an acknowledgement by North Korea of the harsher system of political prison camps, which are estimated to hold 120,000 people.

He said the mention of the reform camps was the first direct acknowledgement by a North Korean official speaking before an international audience. Last month a senior court official mentioned the reform camps’ existence in an interview with the pro-Pyongyang website Minjok Tongshin.

North Korea’s deputy UN ambassador Ri Tong-il said at the briefing that the secretary of his country’s ruling Workers’ party had visited the EU and that “we are expecting end of this year to open political dialogue between the two sides”. The human rights dialogue would follow.

In Brussels an EU official confirmed a recent North Korea meeting with the EU’s top human rights official, Stavros Lambrinidis, but said any dialogue currently planned was limited to rights issues.
The North Korean officials took several questions but did not respond to one about the health of leader Kim Jong-un, who has made no public appearances since 3 September and recently skipped a high-profile event he usually attends.

They said the North did not oppose human rights dialogue as long as it was not used as a “tool for interference”. Their briefing seemed timed in advance of the latest resolution on North Korea and human rights that the EU and Japan put to the UN general assembly every year. More: theguardian.com.

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May 2, 2016

We should just take out KJU and any successor who spouts the same until they get a sane one.

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