80 or more citizens in North Korea were executed for incredibly simple “crimes” like watching South Korean movies, reading the Bible, and prostitution in 2013. South Korean newspaper JoongAng Ilbo was the first to report, revealing that an average of 10 people were publicly executed across a total of seven cities throughout North Korea during the mass execution event. The brutal events marked the first in a long series of public executions that continue even today. It’s important that we don’t forget these events, or who created them.
• All of the perceived crimes fell under what North Korea calls “corruption of public morals.” This includes crimes involving sex – even certain actions that would be considered innocuous in the United States. They are especially tough on crimes of a sexual nature, including prostitution and adultery.
• Most of the people executed were killed by firing squads after being shackled to wooden posts. Crowds gathered to witness the executions, and were made up of women, men, and children. The crowd was expected, and followed through, with watching the executions
• The largest and most public event took place in Wonsan, at Shinpoong Stadium. Authorities gathered a crowd of 10,000 people, identified as men, women, and even children.
• A total of eight people were put to death at Wonsan, with reports suggesting that the bodies were so bullet-riddled afterward they were impossible to identify.
• Despite being innocent of any specific crime, authorities also rounded up relatives of those who had committed the crimes at the time. These individuals were sent to a prison camp. It remains unknown whether they ever escaped.
• North Korean authorities believe in “familial guilt,” meaning that the family members and descendants of a perceived criminal are also looked at as being guilty of the same crime. This often leads to multiple generations within the same family suffering from societal isolation and prison internment.
• Although North Korea has been historically tough on what it perceives as crime, this is the largest mass execution event under the current regime. It is noteworthy that the extinctions took place in major economic centers.
• Some analysts believe the executions may have been one of the first attempts to quell public unrest throughout North Korea. Rebel media outlets have continuously reported significant unrest in many areas of the country over the last five years.
• In at least two such recent incidents, military members fled the country by crossing the border into South Korea under gunfire. One of the surviving soldiers remains under close watch in South Korea as he recovers from critical injuries.
• Although Kim Jong-un continues to tell the world how much North Korea is growing, developing, and flourishing, escapees paint a much different picture. They share tales of a North Korea rife with starvation, suffering, death in the streets, and much heartache.