North Korean authorities are punishing mourners who failed to exhibit sincere sadness and despair after the death of Kim Jong Il on Dec. 17, the Daily NK reported Wednesday.
The online North Korean newspaper, which is published by opponents of the governing regime, said a source in North Hamkyung Province revealed the information. The source told the paper “authorities are handing down at least six months in a labor-training camp to anybody who didn’t participate in the organized gatherings during the mourning period, or who did participate but didn’t cry and didn’t seem genuine,” according to the Daily NK.
There are an estimated 200,000 offenders and families held in North Korean prison camps, according to a May 2011 report from Amnesty International. The report details two types of camps known as “zones.” One zone, known as a Total Control Zone, is for people who have committed “serious crimes.” People in these camps are never released.
The second type of zone, called a Revolutionary Zone, are camps for people who have committed what North Korean authorities perceive as less serious crimes. These crimes may include making critical comments toward government policy or trying to cross the border. Sentences in Revolutionary Zone camps can range from a few months to 10 years.
The report estimates that 40 percent of inmates in the camps will die from malnutrition, and every former inmate interviewed for the report had witnessed at least one public execution while being held.
The late Hwang Jang Yop, a North Korean defector and former official, described similar punishments after the death of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il’s father and the founder of North Korea, in 1994.
“The party conducted surveys to see who displayed the most grief, and made this an important criterion in assessing party members’ loyalty,” Yop wrote. “Patients who remained in hospitals and people who drank and made merry even after hearing news of their leader’s death were all singled out for punishment.”
The Daily NK said its source also reported that North Koreans who were accused of being critical of the country’s dynastic system were being sent to re-education camps or banished with their families to remote areas.
North Korea today said that Kim Jong Il’s body will be embalmed and enshrined in the palace that houses his father’s remains. The country also said it plans to build a new Kim Jong Il statue and construct “towers to his immortality.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.