Back To Top

UN airs coronavirus concerns over NK prisons

A North Korean official is spraying disinfectant somewhere in North Hwanghae Province south of the capital city of Pyongyang. (Yonhap)
A North Korean official is spraying disinfectant somewhere in North Hwanghae Province south of the capital city of Pyongyang. (Yonhap)

The UN Human Rights Office in Seoul said Thursday it was concerned about coronavirus protection for prisoners in North Korea due to a "lack of transparency and information" on its prison camps.

The office said prisoners were vulnerable to the coronavirus because they were "locked up in cramped conditions."

United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said several countries had already made efforts to curb coronavirus infections in prison, in a report submitted to the UN Human Rights Council on April 9.

"Iran recently took action to release, at least temporarily, 40 percent of its prison population. Indonesia will also release prisoners accused of minor crimes. And so on, with other countries," the chief said.

During a teleconference Wednesday on the issues, Roberta Cohen, former US deputy assistant secretary of state, said North Korea should follow suit, urging the international community to address Pyongyang’s prison camps when delivering humanitarian assistance.

Thae Yong-ho, a North Korean defector who recently became a lawmaker in South Korea, was pessimistic, saying releasing prisoners would be "the last thing" leader Kim would do.

He said there was no way to raise the prison camps issue with North Korea.

According to the UN, North Korea has about 120,000 political prisoners. Pyongyang has insisted that it has zero infections.

By Choi Si-young (siyoungchoi@heraldcorp.com)
MOST POPULAR