National News

Hundreds of N.Korean execution sites found

North Korea conducts public executions to incite fear among the public, a rights group has said in a report pinpointing at least 323 sites used by the government for capital punishment.

The report by the Seoul-based Transitional Justice Working Group (TJWG) is the result of four years of research and interviews with more than 600 North Korean defectors living outside the country.

"Public executions are to remind people of particular policy positions that the state has," said TJWG research director Sarah A Son.

"But the second and more powerful reason is it instils a culture of fear among ordinary people."

Purged members of the elite have been among those executed in public, such as leader Kim Jong-un's uncle, Jang Song Thaek, in 2013.

But the most common charges levelled against the condemned ranged from "stealing copper and livestock" to, less commonly, "anti-state" activities and illegally crossing into China, the group said.

The survey of 610 North Korean defectors living in South Korea included 19 reports of more than 10 people being executed at the same time.

Crowds, often of hundreds of people, and sometimes a 1000 or more, would gather. The youngest person to witness a public execution was 7 years old, the group said.

The group found that 35 reports of public executions came from one particular river bank, with executions taking place at the unidentified location every decade since the 1960s.

Six of the executions were by hanging and 29 by firing squad, the group said.

Reuters was unable to independently confirm any of the accounts in the report.

The group said 83 per cent of a sample of 84 surveyed people had witnessed a public execution at some time, but it did not give specific data on how common such executions may be.

Nor did it say if they were getting more or less frequent.

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