10/08/2014, 00.00
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At UN Pyongyang defends its prison camps as re-education centres for wrongdoers

Choe Myong-nam, a senior North Korean official, holds surprise briefing at UN Headquarters to discuss the atrocities committed by the Kim regime. He defends his country's socio-political system against "external forces," but acknowledges the existence of "detention centres where people are improved through their mentality and look on their wrongdoings".

New York (AsiaNews/Agencies) - There are "no prison camps" in North Korea but there are "detention centres where people are improved through their mentality and look on their wrongdoings," said North Korean government official Choe Myong Nam who spoke at a briefing held at the United Nations. In his view, things are good but can improve and "the enjoyment of the people will be further expanded".

It is very rare for the Kim regime to respond to calls of the international community. However,  Choe's presence at the United Nations might be a sign that North Korea is undergoing great changes.

For North Korea this is a rare briefing at the UN to discuss its recent report on its own human rights situation. A UN report released in February, based on defectors' accounts, found that North Korea was committing "unspeakable atrocities" against its own people on a vast scale, holding tens of thousands of people in prison camps.

Choe told the briefing - which was open to reporters and foreign diplomats - that there were "no prison camps" operating in North Korea but there were "detention centres where people are improved through their mentality and look on their wrongdoings".

Describing North Korea as a "transition society", he acknowledged that "there might be some problems, for example in the economic and other areas," and that "we may need to establish more houses and social facilities in order to provide people with better living conditions".

However, he blamed North Korea's economic situation on "external forces", in an apparent reference to the stringent international sanctions the country is under as a result of its repeated nuclear and ballistic missile tests in recent years.

The briefing comes after North Korea issued its own report last month rebutting the UN findings, claiming that "hostile forces are persistently peddling the 'human rights issue' in the DPRK [North Korea] in a bid to tarnish its image and bring down the social system and ideology chosen by the Korean people".

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