A newly released State Department report estimates that around 120,000 political prisoners are held in camps in North Korea.
The department’s annual International Religious Freedom Report for 2017, released on Tuesday, covers 200 countries and territories and documents religious freedom and human rights abuses. It comes amid the Trump administration’s efforts to engage the isolated regime.
According to Fox News, the report addressed the horrid conditions inside the North Korean prison camps and revealed 1,304 cases of alleged religious freedom violations in the country last year. It also detailed the inhumane treatment of both political and religious prisoners and the persecution of Christians within the country.
“The government continued to deal harshly with those who engaged in almost any religious practices through executions, tortures, beatings, and arrests,” the report read. “An estimated 80,000 to 120,000 political prisoners, some imprisoned for religious reasons, were believed to be held in the political prison camp system in remote areas under horrific conditions.”
The report added that the relatives of the detained Christians were also imprisoned as part of the regime’s “policy of guilt by association,” and that any religious activities which were not state-sanctioned, such as praying and reading the Bible, could result in “severe punishment.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who released the report, emphasized the administration’s commitment to “promoting religious freedom around the world,” which he said was “in the American bloodstream.”
For now, it remains unclear whether and to what extent the report will influence negotiations for an upcoming summit between the American and North Korean leaders. This week, Kim Jong-un’s right-hand man, Kim Yong Chol, arrived in New York where he will meet U.S. officials in an attempt to salvage the summit.
“We have put a great team together for our talks with North Korea. Meetings are currently taking place concerning Summit, and more. Kim Young Chol the Vice Chairman of North Korea, heading now to New York. Solid response to my letter, thank you!” Trump tweeted early Tuesday.