North Korean fugitives say executions continue, including for viewing banned videos

North Koreans who have escaped the Kim Jong Un regime say public executions are still being carried out for crimes, including watching South Korean videos, some in front of crowds of onlookers forced to watch.

A report by a South Korea-based human rights watchdog cites more than 400 executions testimonies, including during Kim’s decade in power. In the past 10 years, executions have been carried out mainly by firing squad, in places that include airfields and riverbanks, according to the report.

The peer-reviewed report from the Transitional Justice Task Force, co-founded by Canadian human rights researcher Scott Stevens, included interviews with people who fled North Korea, as well as satellite evidence.

The report, titled “Mapping Murders under Kim Jong Un: North Korea’s Response to International Pressure,” says some prisoners in North Korea have been physically abused or tortured before being shot and their corpses publicly mutilated. , including one with a flamethrower on the front. of his family.

The report suggests that fewer executions are taking place in public view, possibly due to sensitivity to international censorship. It also refers to Kim’s numerous personal pardons at the trial, which the report said were designed “to propagandize” the supreme leader’s benevolence.

The executions, which generally involved three shooters firing nine bullets at the victim’s body, included people charged with drug offenses, viewing or distributing South Korean videos, prostitution, human trafficking, murder or attempted murder, and “acts of obscene “.

The mapping project has spoken with hundreds of North Koreans who have escaped the authoritarian regime. It includes 27 testimonies from state-authorized killings, of which 23 were public executions, since Kim came to power in December 2011.

Several interviewees stated that secret killings continue to take place in North Korea. Public executions were most often described in places such as open spaces and fields, airfields, riverbanks, and hills.

The report concluded that, in response to international criticism, North Korea has “cracked down on potential information leaks by selecting execution sites that are easier to control” and is executing more people behind closed doors.

Several testimonies from Hyesan, near the Chinese border, described the mobilization of students to attend public trials, with teachers taking attendance to ensure a 100% participation rate. One testimony described that the workers were forced to attend public trials and another said that two or three schools took turns attending at the same time.

North Korean fugitives say executions continue, including for viewing banned videos. #North Korea

In many cases, the executions immediately follow a trial in North Korea, Stevens said.

The report, which includes input from a Canadian academic, took six years to produce and is the latest in a series of research projects mapping human rights abuses under the authoritarian regime, including places of slaughter, public executions and mass graves.

“It is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain recent testimony from North Korea, most recently due to the complete closure of the North Korea-China border, which is a major escape point due to COVID,” said Stevens, who has its headquarters in Seoul.

The report’s lead author, Ahyeong Park, said the findings suggest that the Kim regime is responding to increased international scrutiny.

“This does not mean that the human rights situation in North Korea is improving. State-led killings continue to occur in ways that may not be as visible to the public as in the past.”

The Seoul-based organization said it now plans to focus its attention on “secret” executions that take place indoors and cannot be viewed by satellite.

Sean Chung, executive director of HanVoice, a Toronto-based human rights organization, said “the report’s findings demonstrate the need for renewed international action to improve North Korea’s human rights record.”

This Canadian Press report was first published on December 15, 2021.

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