A Seoul-based rights group says North Korea continues to carry out public executions but is now working to make it invisible to the outside world, suggesting that Pyongyang cares more about its image abroad.
The Transitional Justice Working Group has analyzed satellite imagery and collected 442 testimonies regarding the executions of 23 people by firing squad or hanging in public places since North Korean leader Kim Jong Un came to power in December 2011.
And a report of the organization issued on Wednesday by Korean defectors quoted that the executions were carried out in closely monitored sites, and the authorities made every effort to prevent any information from leaking to the outside.
“In recent years, it appears that North Korea has strategically chosen locations far from the border areas to carry out these executions,” the rights group said.
“In addition, the monitoring of bystanders during these incidents was tightened to prevent the publication (information of) public executions outside the country,” she added, citing “broader international monitoring” of human rights violations in North Korea.
North Korea has long been accused of carrying out public executions in order to subdue the population by sowing terror, with Kim Jong Un executing several of his closest advisers, including his uncle Jang Song-thaek, who was unofficially North Korea’s No. 2 official in 2013.
North Korea denies these accusations, describing them as lies promoted by defectors, and affirms its respect for human rights. The country does not publish any statistics on the death penalty.
Of the 23 operations, 21 people were executed by firing squad and the other two were hanged, according to the organization. Operations were often carried out in front of hundreds of spectators, and their families were forced to attend.
Seven of them were charged with distributing or watching videos sourced from South Korea, which is strictly prohibited by the regime.