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Capital punishment in North Korea is used for many offences such as grand theft, murder, rape, drug smuggling, treason, espionage, political dissidence, defection, piracy, consumption of media not approved by the government and proselytizing religious beliefs that contradict practiced Juche ideology.[1] Current working knowledge of the topic depends heavily on verified accounts of defectors (both relatives of victims, and former members of the government).[1] Executions are mostly carried out by firing squad, hanging or decapitation. Allegedly, executions take place in public, which, if true, makes North Korea one of the last four countries to still perform public executions, the other three being Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Somalia.[2]

Reported executions

The South-Korean-based Database Center for North Korean Human Rights has collected unverified testimony on 1,193 historic executions in North Korea to 2009.[3] Amnesty International reported that there were 105 executions between 2007 and 2012.[4] The Foreign Policy periodical estimated there were 60 executions in 2010.[5] In October 2001, the North Korean government told the UN Human Rights Committee that only 13 executions had occurred since 1998 and that no public execution had occurred since 1992.[1]

On November 3, 2013, according to an unproven JoongAng Ilbo report, at least 80 people were publicly executed for minor offenses. The supposed 'executions' were said to be carried out simultaneously in Wonsan, Chongjin, Sariwon, Pyongsong and three other North Korean cities for crimes such as watching South Korean movies, distributing, watching and/or possessing pornography or possessing a Bible. According to a witness from Wonsan, 10,000 residents were forced to watch when eight people were machine-gunned to death at the local Shinpoong stadium.[6]

On December 13, 2013, North Korean state media announced the execution of Jang Sung-taek, the uncle by marriage of North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un.[7] The South Korean National Intelligence Service believes that two of his closest aides, Lee Yong-ha and Jang Soo-keel, were executed in mid-November.[8] According to a South Korean newspaper, Jang's nephew, O Sang-hon, was supposedly executed by being burnt alive with a flame thrower.[9][10]

In 2014, the United Nations Human Rights Council created a Commission of inquiry on human rights in the DPRK, investigating and documenting alleged instances of executions carried out with or without trial, publicly or secretly, in response to political and other crimes that are often not among the most serious. The Commission determined that these systematic acts, if true, rise to the level of crimes against humanity.[1]

List of reported executions

Date of execution Convict Crime Method Source
2 March 2021 Three unnamed men and one unnamed woman Distributing South Korean movies Public execution by firing squad Daily NK[11]
20 July 2020 Six unnamed men Sex trafficking Public execution by shooting Radio Free Asia[12]
May 2020 Unnamed woman and man Defection attempt Execution by shooting Radio Free Asia[13]
April 2020 Three unnamed men Theft Execution by shooting Radio Free Asia[14]
February 2020 Unnamed man Quarantine violation Execution by shooting [15]
March 2019 Two unnamed women Fortune-telling Public execution by shooting [16]
10 January 2019 Unnamed man Murder of prison guard Execution by shooting [17]
December 2018 Unnamed man Corruption Public execution by shooting [18]
December 2018 Unnamed person Fortune telling Public execution; method unspecified [19]
17 November 2018 Unnamed woman Fortune telling Execution by shooting Daily NK

[20]

2018 Male Military officer Embezzlement [21]
27 February 2017 5 unnamed men Making false report Execution by shooting [22]
April 2017 One man Extortion, murder, theft Secret execution; method unspecified Daily NK

[23]

May 2015 Choe Yong-gon Treason
2015 Six people Conducting Christian worship Execution by shooting [24]
2014 Unspecified Conducting Shamanism Unspecified USCIRF

[25]

2014 49-year old man Calling relative in South Korea Unspecified [26]
12 December 2013 Jang Song-thaek and 7 unnamed men Treason Execution by shooting
April 2011 Child and Grandmother Conducting Christian worship Execution by firing squad [27]

[28]

3 January 2011 Unnamed man and unnamed woman Treason Execution by shooting [29]
17 March 2010 Pak Nam-gi Treason Execution by shooting
17 May 2007 Two Guards Selling drugs and theft Public execution [30]
1 March, 2005 Choi Jae Gon and Park Myung Gil "Anti-Socialism" Public execution by shooting [31]
February 28- March 1 2005 Three men Human trafficking Public execution; method unspecified [32]
March 2002 Three members of the Lee Min Park family Conducting Christian worship Unspecified [33]
1997 So Kwan-hui Sabotage Public execution by shooting
1981 Woo In-hee Mistress of Kim Jong-il Public execution by shooting [34]

Public executions

North Korea was alleged to have resumed public executions in October 2007 after they had declined in the years following 2000 amidst international criticism. Prominent supposedly executed criminals include officials convicted of drug trafficking and embezzlement. Common criminals convicted of crimes such as murder, robbery, rape, drug dealing, smuggling, piracy, vandalism, etc. have also been reported to be executed, mostly by firing squad. The country does not publicly release national crime statistics or reports on the levels of crimes.[35] As of 2012, North Korea is allegedly one of four countries carrying out executions in public, the other three being Iran, Saudi Arabia and Somalia.[2] However, according to defectors interviewed by The Diplomat in 2014, the practice of such activities had not occurred, at least in Hyesan since 2000.[36]

In October 2007, a South Pyongan province factory chief convicted of making international phone calls from 13 phones he installed in his factory basement was supposedly executed by firing squad in front of a crowd of 150,000 people in a stadium, according to an unverified report from a South Korean aid agency called Good Friends.[5][37] Good Friends also reported that six were killed in the rush as spectators left. In another unverified instance, 15 people were allegedly publicly executed for crossing the border into China.[38]

A U.N. General Assembly committee has adopted a draft resolution, co-sponsored by more than 50 countries, expressing "very serious concern" at reports of widespread human rights violations in North Korea, including public executions. North Korea has condemned the draft, saying it is inaccurate and biased. The report was sent to the then 192-member General Assembly for a final vote.[39]

In 2011, two people were allegedly executed in front of 500 spectators for handling propaganda leaflets floated across the border from South Korea, reportedly as part of an unverified campaign by former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to tighten ideological control as he groomed his youngest son as the eventual successor.[40]

On November 3, 2013, 80 North Koreans were publicly executed across North Korea.[41]

In June 2019, a South Korean NGO the Transitional Justice Working Group released an unverified report “Mapping the Fate of the Dead” that suggested 318 sites in North Korea supposedly used by the government for public executions.[42] According to the NGO, public executions have taken place near rivers, fields, markets, schools, and sports grounds. The report alleges that family members and children of those sentenced to death were forced to watch their executions.[43]

Capital punishment in prison camps

Amnesty International has alleged that torture and executions are widespread in political prisons in North Korea.[44] Unverified testimonies describe secret and public executions in North Korean prisons by firing squad, decapitation or by hanging.[45] Executions are allegedly used as a means of deterrence, often accompanied by torture.[46]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ a b c d Kirby, Michael Donald; Biserko, Sonja; Darusman, Marzuki (February 7, 2014). "Report of the detailed findings of the commission of inquiry on human rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea -­ A/HRC/25/CRP.1". United Nations Human Rights Council. Archived from the original on February 27, 2014. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  2. ^ a b Rogers, Simon; Chalabi, Mona (December 13, 2013). "Death penalty statistics, country by country". The Guardian. Archived from the original on December 31, 2015. Retrieved December 13, 2015.
  3. ^ White Paper on North Korean Human Rights 2009 (PDF). Seoul: Database Center for North Korean Human Rights. May 31, 2009. ISBN 978-89-93739-03-9. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 4, 2013. Retrieved December 3, 2013.
  4. ^ "Death penalty statistics, country by country". Datablog. The Guardian. 2016. Archived from the original on December 31, 2015. Retrieved April 15, 2018.
  5. ^ a b Joshua E. Keating (September 22, 2011). "The World's Top Executioners". Foreign Policy. Archived from the original on October 7, 2017. Retrieved January 12, 2016.
  6. ^ Lee, Young-Jong (November 11, 2013). "Public executions seen in 7 North Korea cities". 'Korea JoongAng Daily. Archived from the original on August 24, 2019. Retrieved December 3, 2013.
  7. ^ "Even by North Korean standards, this announcement of Jang Song Thaek's execution is intense". Washington Post. December 12, 2013. Archived from the original on December 13, 2013. Retrieved December 13, 2013.
  8. ^ "Seoul: Kim Jung Un Fires Uncle, Executes his Associates". Voice of Asia News. December 3, 2013. Archived from the original on December 4, 2013. Retrieved December 3, 2013.
  9. ^ Julian Ryall (April 7, 2014). "North Korean official 'executed by flame-thrower'". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on April 26, 2016. Retrieved April 5, 2018.
  10. ^ "N.Korea Shuts Down Jang Song-taek's Department". Chosun Ilbo. April 7, 2014. Archived from the original on May 7, 2015. Retrieved May 1, 2015.
  11. ^ Ha Yoon Ah (March 12, 2021). "Four publicly executed in Pyongyang on charges of distributing "illegal video materials"". Daily NK. Archived from the original on May 12, 2021. Retrieved May 15, 2021.
  12. ^ "North Korea Publicly Executes Six for Sex Trafficking, Including Four Officials". Radio Free Asia. August 6, 2020. Archived from the original on September 3, 2020. Retrieved September 13, 2020.
  13. ^ "North Korea Executes Couple For Trying to Escape to South During COVID-19 Emergency". Radio Free Asia. May 22, 2020. Archived from the original on August 6, 2020. Retrieved August 4, 2020.
  14. ^ "North Korea Executes Three Officials For Theft of Emergency Food Supplies". Radio Free Asia. April 2020. Archived from the original on September 29, 2020. Retrieved August 4, 2020.
  15. ^ "North Korea executes top official for leaving coronavirus quarantine to go to baths". metro.co.uk. February 13, 2020. Archived from the original on February 15, 2020. Retrieved February 15, 2020.
  16. ^ "North Korea Stages Public Executions to Strengthen 'Social Order'". April 10, 2019. Archived from the original on December 3, 2019. Retrieved February 15, 2020 – via Radio Free Asia.
  17. ^ "North Korean Inmate Executed By Firing Squad For Killing Prison Guard". January 17, 2019. Archived from the original on January 17, 2019. Retrieved February 15, 2020 – via www.ibtimes.com.
  18. ^ "N.Korea's State Guesthouse Chief Executed in Public". chosun.com. February 12, 2019. Archived from the original on January 29, 2020. Retrieved March 20, 2020.
  19. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on September 4, 2019. Retrieved September 11, 2021.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  20. ^ Ah, Ha Yoon (December 19, 2018). "Fortune teller executed by firing squad in North Korea". Daily NK. Archived from the original on September 21, 2020. Retrieved September 11, 2021.
  21. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on September 11, 2021. Retrieved September 11, 2021.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  22. ^ "Report: N. Korea executes officials with anti-aircraft guns for 'enraging' Kim Jong Un". CNBC. February 27, 2017. Archived from the original on March 20, 2020. Retrieved October 29, 2017.
  23. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on September 11, 2021. Retrieved September 11, 2021.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  24. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on September 11, 2021. Retrieved September 11, 2021.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  25. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on August 18, 2021. Retrieved September 11, 2021.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  26. ^ "North Korea executes 10 people who 'secretly used phones to call outside world'". June 23, 2021. Archived from the original on July 22, 2021. Retrieved September 11, 2021.
  27. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on August 18, 2021. Retrieved September 11, 2021.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  28. ^ "North Korea tortures and executes Christians, USCIRF says". The Jerusalem Post | JPost.com. Archived from the original on September 10, 2021. Retrieved September 11, 2021.
  29. ^ "Executions in January 2011". Archived from the original on April 15, 2020. Retrieved March 20, 2020.
  30. ^ A, Yang Jung (June 27, 2006). ""The Mid-May Public Execution of a Discharged Soldier"". Daily NK. Archived from the original on February 10, 2021. Retrieved September 11, 2021.
  31. ^ NK, Daily (March 16, 2005). "Public Execution of Choi Jae Gon, Park Myung Gil". Daily NK. Archived from the original on February 28, 2021. Retrieved September 11, 2021.
  32. ^ NK, Daily (March 11, 2005). "Crackdowns, Public Executions on Sino-Korean Border". Daily NK. Archived from the original on September 4, 2019. Retrieved September 11, 2021.
  33. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on August 18, 2021. Retrieved September 11, 2021.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  34. ^ 悲運の女優 禹仁姫(ウ・インヒ)の顔写真 日本で相次いで見つかる. KoreaWorldTimes (in Japanese). October 15, 2020. Archived from the original on November 25, 2020. Retrieved October 16, 2020.
  35. ^ "Korea, Democratic People's Republic of" Archived June 22, 2019, at the Wayback Machine, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State. Retrieved September 25, 2013.
  36. ^ "The Strange Tale of Yeonmi Park". thediplomat.com. Archived from the original on September 13, 2018. Retrieved December 10, 2020.
  37. ^ "150,000 Witness North Korea Execution of Factory Boss Whose Crime Was Making International Phone Calls" Archived May 27, 2013, at the Wayback Machine, Fox News, November 27, 2007.
  38. ^ Public executions by North Korea is another injustice Archived 2009-01-29 at the Wayback Machine, Amnesty International, March 7, 2008.
  39. ^ "North Korea resumes public executions". A non-profit organization work towards realization of Human rights and protects crime against humanity. English-language version of Pravda. November 26, 2007. Archived from the original on July 16, 2009. Retrieved December 19, 2007.
  40. ^ "Public Executions over Leaflets" Archived January 25, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. Parameswaran Ponnudurai. Radio Free Asia (RFA). January 24, 2011. Retrieved July 12, 2013.
  41. ^ "North Korea publicly executes 80, some for videos or Bibles, report says". Fox News. March 25, 2015. Archived from the original on March 14, 2021. Retrieved September 11, 2021.
  42. ^ "MAPPING THE FATE OF THE DEAD: KILLINGS AND BURIALS IN NORTH KOREA" (PDF). Transitional Justice Working Group. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 11, 2019. Retrieved June 10, 2019.
  43. ^ "North Korea: Hundreds of public execution sites identified, says report". BBC News. Archived from the original on June 12, 2019. Retrieved June 11, 2019.
  44. ^ "Amnesty: Torture, Execution Rampant in Vast N. Korea Prisons". Voice of Asia News. December 4, 2013. Archived from the original on December 13, 2013. Retrieved December 13, 2013.
  45. ^ "Political Prison Camps in North Korea Today" (PDF), Database Center for North Korean Human Rights, 2.1.2 Public and Secret Executions (pp. 455–480), July 15, 2011, archived from the original (PDF) on February 28, 2013, retrieved December 13, 2013
  46. ^ "North Korea: A case to answer – a call to act" (PDF). Christian Solidarity Worldwide. June 20, 2007. pp. 36–37. Archived (PDF) from the original on October 21, 2013. Retrieved December 13, 2013.