Capital punishment in North Korea

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Capital punishment is a legal and often-used form of punishment in North Korea for many offences, such as grand theft, murder, rape, drug smuggling, treason, espionage, political dissidence, defection, piracy, consumption of media not approved by the government and proselytizing religious beliefs that contradict practiced Juche ideology.[1] Current working knowledge of the topic depends heavily on the accounts of defectors (both relatives of victims, and former members of the government).[1] Executions are mostly carried out by firing squad, hanging or decapitation in public, making North Korea one of the last six countries to still perform public executions, the other five being Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Afghanistan and Yemen.

Human rights organizations have collected testimony on 1,193 executions in North Korea through 2009.[2] Foreign Policy periodical estimated there were 60 executions in 2010.[3]

Reported executions

On November 3, 2013, according to a JoongAng Ilbo report, at least 80 people were publicly executed for minor offenses. The executions were said to be carried out simultaneously in Wonsan, Chongjin, Sariwon, Pyongsong and three other North Korean cities for crimes such as watching South Korean movies, watching pornography or possessing a Bible. According to a witness from Wonsan, 10,000 residents were forced to watch when eight people were machine-gunned to death at the local Shinpoong stadium.[4]

On December 13, 2013, North Korean state media announced the execution of Jang Sung-taek, the uncle by marriage of North Korea's leader at the time, Kim Jong-un.[5] The South Korean National Intelligence Service believes that two of his closest aides, Lee Yong-ha and Jang Soo-keel, were executed in mid-November.[6] According to a South Korean newspaper, Jang's nephew, O Sang-hon, was executed by being burnt alive with a flame thrower.[7][8]

In 2014 the United Nations Human Rights Council created a Commission of inquiry on human rights in the DPRK, investigating and documenting many instances of executions carried out with or without trial, publicly or secretly, in response to political and other crimes that are often not among the most serious. The Commission determined that these systematic acts, including extermination and murder, rise to the level of crimes against humanity.[1]

Capital punishment in prison camps

Amnesty International says torture and executions are widespread in political prisons in North Korea.[9] Testimonies describe secret and public executions in North Korean prisons by firing squad, decapitation or by hanging.[10] Executions are used as a means of deterrence, often accompanied by torture.[11] Prisoners are executed for acts like stealing food, attempting to escape, refusing to abandon religious belief, or criticizing the government.[citation needed]

Public executions

North Korea resumed public executions in October 2007 after they had declined in the years following 2000 amidst international criticism. Prominent executed criminals include officials convicted of drug trafficking and embezzlement. Common criminals convicted of crimes such as murder, robbery, rape, drug dealing, smuggling, piracy, vandalism, etc. have also been reported to be executed, mostly by firing squad. The country does not publicly release national crime statistics or reports on the levels of crimes.[12]

In October 2007, a South Pyongan province factory chief convicted of making international phone calls from 13 phones he installed in his factory basement was executed by firing squad in front of a crowd of 150,000 people in a stadium, according to a report from a South Korean aid agency called Good Friends.[3][13] Good Friends also reported that six were killed in the crush as spectators left. In another instance, 15 people were publicly executed for crossing the border into China.[14]

A U.N. General Assembly committee has adopted a draft resolution, co-sponsored by more than 50 countries, expressing "very serious concern" at reports of widespread human rights violations in North Korea, including public executions. North Korea has condemned the draft, saying it is inaccurate and biased, but it was still sent to the then 192-member General Assembly for a final vote.[15]

In 2011, two people were executed in front of 500 spectators for handling propaganda leaflets floated across the border from South Korea, apparently as part of a campaign by former North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il to tighten ideological control as he groomed his youngest son as the eventual successor.[16]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Kirby, Michael Donald; Biserko, Sonja; Darusman, Marzuki (7 February 2014). "Report of the detailed findings of the commission of inquiry on human rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea -­ A/HRC/25/CRP.1". United Nations Human Rights Council. Archived from the original on Feb 27, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "White Paper on North Korean Human Rights 2009" (PDF). North Korean Human Rights Database Center. May 31, 2009. Retrieved December 3, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 Joshua E. Keating (22 September 2011). "The World's Top Executioners". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 12 January 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Lee, Young-Jong (November 11, 2013). "Public executions seen in 7 North Korea cities". 'Korea JoongAng Daily. Retrieved December 3, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Even by North Korean standards, this announcement of Jang Song Thaek's execution is intense". Washington Post. December 12, 2013. Retrieved December 13, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Seoul: Kim Jung Un Fires Uncle, Executes his Associates". Voice of Asia News. December 3, 2013. Retrieved December 3, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Julian Ryall (7 April 2014). "North Korean official 'executed by flame-thrower'". The Daily Telegraph.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "N.Korea Shuts Down Jang Song-taek's Department". Chosun Ilbo. 7 April 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Amnesty: Torture, Execution Rampant in Vast N. Korea Prisons". Voice of Asia News. December 4, 2013. Retrieved December 13, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Political Prison Camps in North Korea Today" (PDF), Database Center for North Korean Human Rights, July 15, 2011, retrieved December 13, 2013 |chapter= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "North Korea: A case to answer – a call to act" (PDF). Christian Solidarity Worldwide. June 20, 2007. pp. 36–37. Retrieved December 13, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Korea, Democratic People's Republic of", Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State. Retrieved September 25, 2013.
  13. "150,000 Witness North Korea Execution of Factory Boss Whose Crime Was Making International Phone Calls", Fox News, November 27, 2007.
  14. Public executions by North Korea is another injustice, Amnesty International, March 7, 2008.
  15. "North Korea resumes public executions". A non-profit organization work towards realization of Human rights and protects crime against humanity. English-language version of Pravda. November 26, 2007. Retrieved December 19, 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. "Public Executions over Leaflets". Parameswaran Ponnudurai. Radio Free Asia (RFA). January 24, 2011. Retrieved July 12, 2013.