Published November 12, 2013
South Korean newspaper JoongAng Ilbo reported that on November 3, as many as 80 people were publicly executed in seven cities across North Korea for minor offenses. These are the first known large-scale public executions by the Kim Jong-un regime. About 10 people were killed in each city. In a stadium in port city Wonsan, eight people were tied to stakes, bags were placed over their heads and they were shot with machine guns while a crowd of over 10,000 including children, was forced to watch. Kim Jong-un is planning a development in Wonsan in order to make it a tourist destination, and it is speculated that the executions (for offenses as minor as watching a South Korean movie or possessing a Bible) are meant to “quell public unrest or any capitalistic inclinations that may accompany its development projects.” Executions are permitted by North Korean law for offenses such as treason and terrorism, but public executions have been ordered for minor infractions such as cellphone use and stealing food in order to intimidate the public. Experts also speculate that the executions are related to public executions of members of the Unhasu Orchestra earlier this year which caused some unrest around the countryside. There were no executions in Pyongyang where the country’s elite reside, whose support Kim relies on.
One sentence in this article really struck me, “There is no clear reason for the executions.” Seems to me, there is. It’s noted in the article that the cities in which the executions occurred are centers of economic development. Kim wants to create the developments he wants, such as hotels, a ski resort, and water parks, but wants to tamp down any entrepreneurial leanings among the people. Such executions have been a tactic used by tyrants throughout history to create a fearful and obedient populace. In my opinion, the offenses were carefully chosen to decrease the likelihood that the people would try to reach out to get information from the rest of the world (talking on a cell phone or watching movies from South Korea), or to squash the idea that there is any authority above Kim Jong-un (possessing a Bible).
I can’t imagine the horror of living in constant fear.