Skip to main content

North Korea denies punishing citizens for not mourning enough

By Jiyeon Lee and Jethro Mullen, CNN
updated 5:30 AM EST, Mon January 16, 2012
North Koreans mourn the death of their leader Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang last month.
North Koreans mourn the death of their leader Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang last month.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The state-run North Korean news agency attacks "misinformation" from "reptile media"
  • South Korean website reports North Koreans were punished for not mourning enough
  • The mourning concerns Kim Jong Il, the North Korea leader who died last month
  • The South Korean report is based on an anonymous source inside North Korea

Seoul, South Korea (CNN) -- North Korea has angrily denied allegations that it punished some of its citizens for inadequately mourning the death of its late leader Kim Jong Il.

Kim died last month after 17 years of repressive rule over the secretive state, setting off deep uncertainty about North Korea's future.

The North Korean regime commemorated his death with elaborately choreographed ceremonies broadcast on state-run media that showed crowds of mourners beating their chests and wailing with grief in the snow-covered streets of Pyongyang.

Over the weekend, a report from the state-run Korean Central News Agency lashed out at "misinformation" that citizens who had "failed to show tears at memorial services were sent to a concentration camp."

Mourning Kim Jong Il
Analyzing North Korean mourning
North Korea image makers hard at work
North Korean hard line on South remains

It attributed the allegations to "reptile media under the control" of a group of "traitors" that it said were connected to President Lee Myung-bak of South Korea.

The news agency appeared to be referring to a report last week by the South Korean news website Daily NK, which monitors developments in the North through a network of sources inside the country.

Citing an unidentified person in North Korea, Daily NK reported that "the 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."

The president of Daily NK, Park In-ho, said that the information for its report had come from a North Korean citizen in North Hamgyong Province, which borders China. The unidentified North Korean relayed the information to a Daily NK reporter using an illegal Chinese mobile phone -- commonly used items among people living in the border areas -- Park said.

Information from the North is usually communicated to Daily NK reporters in China, who then pass it on to South Korea, according to Park.

North Korea significantly restricts the ability of international news organizations to freely report within its territory.

Daily NK was founded and then spun off by the Network for North Korean Democracy and Human Rights Network, a nonprofit organization that aims to promote human rights in North Korea. Daily NK has received tens of thousands of dollars in funding from the National Endowment for Democracy, a U.S. nonprofit organization that is supported financially by the U.S. Congress through the Department of State.

The Korean Central News Agency report over the weekend expressed anger that the Daily NK report had coincided with Pyongyang's own announcement of a prisoner amnesty in connection with the birthdays this year of two late North Korean dictators -- Kim Jong Il and his father, Kim Il Sung, the founder of the North Korean nation.

"This evil deed could be done only by the despicable guys hell-bent on letting loose invectives and telling lies," the KCNA report said.

North Korea has not specified how many prisoners will be released under amnesty, due to begin February 1.

International organizations estimate that the North Korean regime holds approximately 200,000 political prisoners.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 4:51 AM EDT, Mon September 15, 2014
North Korea has "the world's most advantageous human rights system," the country declares.
updated 9:35 PM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
Three Americans detained in North Korea spoke out about their conditions Monday in an exclusive interview with CNN.
updated 4:52 AM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
The crowd cheers as the stars make their way to the ring for first pro-wrestling bout North Korea has seen in almost 20 years.
updated 9:37 PM EDT, Sat August 30, 2014
CNN's Will Ripley makes a rare live report from reclusive North Korea.
updated 10:45 AM EDT, Tue September 2, 2014
CNN's Will Ripley is given a rare look inside North Korea and tours Kim Jong Un's pet project, a waterpark.
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
North Korea rejected an invitation to the Pope's Mass in Seoul. CNN's Paula Hancocks reports.
updated 6:25 PM EDT, Wed July 2, 2014
As diplomats discuss a string of unsolved kidnappings of Japanese citizens by North Korea, the families of those abducted anxiously wait.
updated 7:57 PM EDT, Thu July 3, 2014
When President Xi Jinping arrives in Seoul this week, the Chinese leader will have passed over North Korea in favor of its arch rival.
updated 11:13 PM EDT, Mon June 30, 2014
North Korea says it plans to prosecute two American tourists that it detained earlier this year, accusing them of "perpetrating hostile acts."
updated 7:38 PM EDT, Mon June 30, 2014
North Korea proposed that "all hostile military activities" with South Korea be halted, but it attached conditions that Seoul is likely to reject.
updated 8:23 PM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
North Korean state news is reporting the country test-launched "cutting-edge ultra precision tactical guided missiles."
updated 7:45 AM EDT, Wed June 25, 2014
James Franco won't be following Dennis Rodman into North Korea anytime soon.
updated 7:04 AM EDT, Fri June 13, 2014
Don't you hate it when the weatherman gets it wrong? Apparently, so does Kim Jong Un.
updated 7:44 PM EDT, Thu June 5, 2014
New signs show Russia and North Korea are developing a closer relationship.
updated 8:12 PM EDT, Wed May 21, 2014
Photographer Eric Lafforgue visited North Korea and shares his inside look at the most isolated country in the world.
updated 9:25 PM EDT, Mon May 12, 2014
Many North Koreans listen to illegal broadcasts on homemade radios, some are convinced to defect.
updated 3:26 PM EDT, Thu May 8, 2014
Jang Jin-Sung, a North Korean defector and former regime insider, speaks with CNN's Christiane Amanpour.
ADVERTISEMENT