N. Korea rejects confirmation of political prisoners' safety

SEOUL, Dec. 4 (Yonhap) -- North Korea has flatly rejected the U.N.'s request to confirm the whereabouts of political prisoners held in the communist country, a group of North Korean defectors here said Wednesday.

In July, the group Free the NK Gulags, made up of North Korean defectors once detained in prison camps in the autocratic nation, submitted petitions from families of 20 political prisoners in conjunction with the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, asking to check their safety.

The U.N. agency then forwarded the documents to Pyongyang for their reply.

Sending its first official response on Oct. 7, the North said, "The contents of the petitions do not deserve any consideration, and they are just in line with the South Korean authorities' plots against us," according to the Korean group during their press conference in Seoul.

Stressing that the North "flatly denied the cases written in the petitions," the group added that the communist country called on the U.N. to "take a fair and critical stance" to Seoul's moves.

North Korea, known as one of the world's worst human rights violators, reportedly holds up to 120,000 political prisoners with meager rations while subjecting them to forced labor, beatings and other severe punishments.

Unabated, the Korean group vowed to send another batch of petitions with some 20 cases of such political prisoners in the North to the U.N. working group and the Commission of Inquiry, a special U.N. panel on North Korea's human rights abuses.

<All rights reserved by Yonhap News Agency>