South Korean media has reported that as many as 80 people were executed publicly in North Korea, many for infractions like watching movies from South Korea or possessing a Bible.
Possession of a Bible is considered a very serious offense in North Korea, where Christians are forced to go underground. One Christian group gets Bibles in the hands of North Koreans by sending tens of thousands of hydrogen balloons over the border from South Korea.
However, as The Los Angeles Times reports, the South Korean reports stem from two sources. One is an unnamed source cited by major South Korean daily JoongAng Ilbo, and the other is a news agency run by North Korean defectors who reported hearing of killings in seven North Korean cities.
Some of those executed were reportedly charged with distributing pornography, according to JoongAng Ilbo, while the North Korean defectors’ outlet said others were charged with being involved with prostitution.
Yet there also seems to be an anti-capitalistic aspect to the executions.
“The idea that executions would be held simultaneously on a weekend in seven cities suggests an extreme measure by the central government to stamp out public unrest or capitalistic zeal accompanying its development projects,” Lee Young-Jong wrote for JoongAng Ilbo.
The source cited by JoongAng Ilbo, who is reportedly familiar with North Korean internal affairs and recently returned from the country, said the executions were carried out on Nov. 3, according to the Huffington Post.
Daily NK, run by North Korean defectors, said they didn’t have information on the executions, according to HuffPo, though North Korea Intellectual Solidarity said their sources reported plans to carry out a wave of public executions.
In one city, Wonsan, eight people were reportedly tied to stakes at a local stadium where their heads were covered with sacks and they were shot with a machine gun, JoongAng Ilbo reported.
Their source said that the Wonsan authorities gathered around 10,000 people, including children, and forced them to watch the executions.
The executions are “the first known mass executions in the Kim Jong-un regime,” according to The Washington Times.
Relatives or alleged accomplices of those executed were likely sent to prison camps, according to Fox News.
“The regime is obviously afraid of potential changes in people’s mindsets and is pre-emptively trying to scare people off,” an individual from the defector-run North Korea Intellectual Solidarity website said to AFP.
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