Kim Jong Un has reportedly issued instructions to government bodies including the Ministry of People’s Security to ban further public executions.
“Kim Jong Un has issued instructions to ‘prohibit public executions’ to judicial and prosecution bodies including the Ministry of People’s Security (police). The instruction containing the orders forbids both public trials and executions,” a source in South Pyongan Province told Daily NK on December 13.
“The instruction is not aimed at reducing or abolishing executions. It just means that capital punishment will be conducted privately in future.”
The North Korean authorities have often been documented carrying out public executions against those who break its draconian laws, including the distribution of South Korean TV shows. Such acts serve as an example to spread fear among residents and deter them from engaging in such activities. Under the Kim Jong Un regime, ruthless executions of high-ranking officials have been conducted for actions running ‘counter to the Party and the revolution.’
South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) reported in October that the Kim Jong Un regime has resumed purges which were in temporary decline following the execution of Hyon Yong Chol, former defense chief of the People’s Armed Forces (MPAF). The number of people publicly executed by the regime reportedly reached 64 by September, according to the NIS.
Some suspect that Kim Jong Un’s decision to revert to private executions has been influenced by recent momentum built up by the UN and NGOs highlighting North Korea’s human rights violations, even suggesting that the North Korean authorities may be put on trial at the ICC (International Criminal Court).
“(The authorities) have been continuously conducting public executions in order to instill fear among the population, but it seems to have realized the drawbacks of the measure. The regime is presumably becoming sensitive about scenes of public executions escaping to the outside world,” a source in North Pyongan Province explained.
It is also being pointed that the current instructions cannot be viewed as a move to improve human rights, but simply a measure to deflect open criticism by the international community. Although a few differences will arise from the measure, including the replacement of guns with blunt weapons, the number of executions is likely to remain the same.
Private executions in North Korea are usually carried out in a prison cell, interrogation room, or in the mountains. The executioners immobilize the prisoners on a chair and execute them by repeatedly striking their vital points with blunt weapons such as rubber or wooden clubs and hammers.
Testimonies also state that electrocution and lethal injections are used during private executions.
“Private executions are generally more feared by prisoners and their families. Without even a public ‘trial,’ it becomes even easier for the regime to execute anyone without consequences,” added a source in Ryanggang Province.
“A Provincial Ministry of People’s Security official who gave me this information also said that special units within regional security bodies nationwide will be formed, consisting of executioners. The adoption of private executions will cause great psychological pressure and anxiety for the prisoners.”