The North Korean mission at the UN held a rare briefing to discuss its recent report on its own human rights situation.
A North Korean official acknowledged his country runs labor camps to “reform” detainees, but dismissed criticism of its rights record as “wild rumors”.
A UN report released in February 2014 said North Korea was committing “unspeakable atrocities” against its own people on a vast scale.
North Korea is thought to hold tens of thousands of people in prison camps.
Official Choe Myong-nam 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”.
He said North Korea was a “transition society” and as such “there might be some problems, for example in the economic and other areas, we may need to establish more houses and social facilities in order to provide people with better living conditions”.
Choe Myong-nam blamed North Korea’s economic situation on “external forces”, Reuters reports, 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.
As the country moved forward “the enjoyment of the people will be further expanded”, Choe Myong-nam said.
The UN report in February said there was evidence of “systematic, widespread and grave violations of human rights” in North Korea.
It said those accused of political crimes are “disappeared” to prison camps, where they are subject to “deliberate starvation, forced labor, executions, torture, rape and the denial of reproductive rights enforced through punishment, forced abortion and infanticide.
The report, based on interviews with North Korean defectors, estimated that “hundreds of thousands of political prisoners have perished in these camps over the past five decades”.
North Korea’s report rebutting the UN findings, first released last month, said 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”.
The open UN briefing comes days after North Korea agreed to resume formal high-level talks with South Korea – which were suspended in February – after Northern officials made a surprise visit to the South for the Asian Games.
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