North Korea Uses Public Executions to Keep Its Iron Grip on Its People

More than ten public executions have taken place
Lee Sung Jin, from Yanji  |  2007-10-26 15:39
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▲ A crowd gathered at a public execution site in Hoiryeong, North Hamkyung in March, 2005
An inside source said on the 24th that Oh Moon Hyuk, the manager of a foreign currency-making activity organization in Yeonsa in Hamkyung Province was executed in public in mid August for smuggling timber to China. Every manager of the country’s foreign currency-making activity organizations were called out to watch the execution. Some sources purported that Oh Moon Hyuk logged and smuggled protected “slogan trees.” Later, the charge turned out to be false.

Good Friends, a Seoul-based relief group dedicated to North Korea, said that around 150,000 people were gathered on Oct 5 at a stadium in Suncheon, South Pyongan Province and watched the public execution of the manager of Suncheon stone-cutting factory.

On September 2, two people convicted of possessing drugs were executed in public at Hoiryeong in North Hamkyung Province. In June, a man charged with illegally cutting and selling aluminum wire was executed in public, and three or four people were reported to have been shot to death at other sites. More than ten public executions have been reported to the outside world during the second half of this year.

Lately, the outside world has been receiving more reports of public executions than before. Some say it is because more information on North Korea is becoming available. Others argue that the number public executions is actually rising in North Korea.

Despite the international community’s denouncement against public executions, North Korea continues to pursue the practice. It seems that North Korea is unwilling to change its system that uses terror as a means to oppressing the people.

The international community has been criticizing North Korea for its cruel and barbaric public executions. The security officers of National Security Agency are especially notorious for their cruelty. It is known that the officers line up those who have been sentenced to death and shoot 12 bullets through the head of each individual. People forced to watch the execution cannot help but tremble in fear.

In the early 1990s, North Korea restricted public executions for some time. However, the practice revived as North Korean society was thrown into chaos in the wake of the food crisis. In 2000, the crisis began to settle down but the practice continued. This is because the state wanted to “clean up” in the wake of the “March of Tribulation” (mass starvation in 1990s).

Individuals sentenced to public execution are not those offenders who committed a crime to survive but criminals charged with serious felonies such as drug dealing and accumulation of wealth by illegal means. As the country went through the food crisis, the state began to loose its control over society and became even more corrupt. By harshly punishing felons, the state attempted to put an end to the breakdown of its system.

Oh Moon Hyuk’s execution is a typical case of public order disturbance. He is known to have had a villa and a mistress and to have driven a Ford automobile.

As for the stone-cutting factory manager, he had set up thirteen telephones in the basement, some of which were used to make international calls. In these days, the state inspection groups are strengthening their activities, particularly keeping their eye on the nouveau riche. In addition, they are desperately cracking down on the use of cell phones in order to cut off any connection with the outside world.

Sohn Jung Hoon, the Secretary General of the Committee for Democratization of North Korea said, “Public executions have always been a problem in North Korea. When I was still in Pyongyang, the state carried out an execution at least once a month. The increase in public executions illustrates that the number of those who are challenging the regime is increasing.”
 
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