Prisoner releases bring only scorn on Seoul leader

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STRICKEN with cancer and enfeebled by age and torture, Shin In- young hobbled out of a South Korean prison after 31 years of mostly solitary confinement and lamented the fate of those left behind. "There are many more inside," said Mr Shin, 69. "I feel sorry when I think of them."

Mr Shin was one of 74 political prisoners released yesterday in a sweeping amnesty by President Kim Dae-jung that brought the nation's new leader, himself once a prisoner of conscience, only scorn from human rights groups that once were among his chief supporters.

"We are very disappointed," the nation's largest civil rights group, Minkahyup, said, noting that the vast majority of the 5.5 million people affected by the amnesty were traffic offenders and petty criminals.

Oh Wan-ho, secretary-general of the South Korean chapter of Amnesty International, said:"The government released only part of the long-term prisoners of conscience because they feared a backlash from the country's conservative groups."