Hyesan Man Executed as Example for Rest

The death sentence has been imposed upon at least one person caught making
phone contact with South Korea from a location near the Sino-North Korean
border, Daily NK has learned via detailed, exclusive testimony from a source in
the region.

“At the beginning of this year they amended the criminal code,” the source reported
to Daily NK on the 22nd. “Then, in Hyesan someone got executed as an
example to the rest.”

According to the source, the execution came amidst an extensive campaign
against cellphone users, smugglers, and people aiding and abetting defections,
which began last year and has continued into 2014. The victim, a 49-year old
stage lighting engineer called Ri Kyung Ho, was executed in March. His
execution, though not public, was used as an example to others, and his family has
been incarcerated in a State Security Department (SSD) facility.

“Ri Kyung Ho was caught out of town by an SSD agent with a signal detector.
He’d been calling his family in South Chosun” the source said, explaining the
background to the man’s arrest. “He probably didn’t have time to take the phone
apart and hide it
before
SSD agents got to his house.”

In the course of Ri’s subsequent interrogation, it reportedly emerged that not
only had he been making regular phone calls, but had also been involved in remittance
transfers from South Korea and aiding and abetting defections.

“He seems to have started by conveying money from defectors to their families,
but then began to help people who asked him to send their families to China,”
the source said. “Some people are asking why he was killed just because of the
money thing, but there are a few who were close to him and his wife, and they say
it was because he had been helping defections.”

“In times gone by you could bribe your way out of this, but right now
they’re sure to punish you. Nobody knows when or why they might get caught up
in it, so everyone is nervous,” she said. “Anyone who uses a cellphone to call
‘that way’ or ‘the other way’ [meaning South Korea or China] is scared.”

“The rumor now is that Ri Kyung Ho’s elder brother Ri Song Ho, who is deputy
head of a children’s film production team, and his younger brother Ri Chang Keun,
who is a senior member of a state merited chorus ensemble, are facing
punishment, too,” the source added.

Daily NK reported yesterday on the revised criminal code. For more
information, see the attached article below.

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Kang Mi Jin is a North Korean defector turned journalist who fled North Korea in 2009. She has a degree in economics and writes largely on marketization and economy-related issues for Daily NK. Many of her articles are featured in the Jangmadang section of the Daily NK website. She has been interviewed by the New York Times and LA Times, among others, and is a contributor on North Korea issues for TBS and KBS.