Koreas to let convicts off the hook as holidays near

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Koreas to let convicts off the hook as holidays near

North Korea will pardon convicts next month, the country’s state media reported yesterday, as its new leader Kim Jong-un is tightening his grip on power following the sudden death of his father, former leader Kim Jong-il.

The North “will apply amnesty to convicts from Feb. 1 on the occasion of the centenary of the birth of President Kim Il Sung and the 70th birth anniversary of leader Kim Jong-il,” said the Korean Central News Agency, citing a parliamentary decree.

North Korea’s founder Kim Il Sung died in 1994, though he is still referred to as the “eternal president.” His April 15 birthday - dubbed the “Day of Sun” - is one of the most important holidays in the isolated country along with the Feb. 16 birthday of his son, Kim Jong-il.

“It is the steadfast will of the Workers’ Party of Korea and state to embody generation after generation the noble benevolent and all-embracing politics” of the two late Kims, the decree said.

Also yesterday, South Korea’s Justice Ministry announced presidential pardons to some 955 convicted criminals on Thursday, ahead of the four-day Lunar New Year holidays that begin on Jan. 21.

Those to be released in the latest parole mostly include convicts who committed petty crimes because of economic difficulties; politicians, public officials and business leaders are excluded, according to the ministry. The Justice Ministry noted that 599 inmates will be paroled while a further 190 will have their prison sentences reduced. It also said 166 others who were convicted of crimes would have their licenses or other rights reinstated or their suspended sentences annulled as part of the pardon.

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