SEOUL, Oct. 14 (UPI) -- Kim Jong Un granted amnesty to thousands of North Korean prisoners right before the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Workers' Party, according to a source in the country.
A resident of South Pyongan province speaking to South Korean news outlet Daily NK on the condition of anonymity said that Kim's pardon was carried out in 12 penitentiaries and in each city, province and county Oct. 8-9.
"This is the second time thousands of prisoners have been released with pardon," the source said. In September, North Korea had released prisoners in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of national independence.
The general health condition of the released prisoners, however, is not good.
"The majority of the prisoners are barely alive, because of deteriorating health," the source said. "Contrary to North Korea propaganda that claims the prisoners owed their release to Kim Jong Un's munificence, they were let go because they were sick, unable to work and harder to manage."
The source said no political prisoners under the surveillance of the Ministry of State Security were freed, and most of the prisoners released were those accused of theft, violent crime and drug trafficking.
The source said, however, North Koreans who attempted to defect or were detained in China and Vietnam were granted the pardon, and hundreds of prisoners at Kaechon internment camp No. 14 were let go after they were forced to sign a pledge they would never commit their "crime" again and promised to not disclose information on the camps.
China does not recognize North Korean defectors as refugees and frequently cooperates with the Pyongyang regime to return North Koreans on Chinese soil.
North Korea also depends heavily on China economically, but Kim Jong Un has been trying to change a relationship between unequal partners by reaching out to Russia.
CNBC reported on Wednesday that Pyongyang and Moscow are working to strengthen trade and diplomatic relations by creating a trading house to handle imports and exports. Most trade, according to Russia's TASS agency, goes through China, and one-third of Chinese exports to North Korea, worth $900 million, are actually Russian products.
Russia's minister for Far East Development Alexander Galushka said Russia also is considering building a power transmission line to North Korea to help with its electricity shortages, South Korean outlet Newsis reported.