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The KILLER regime: Hair-raising tales from North Korea

Last updated on: November 13, 2013 12:21 IST

The KILLER regime: Hair-raising tales from North Korea

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Firing squad seems to be a ‘standard’ form of punishment in North Korea, and is often freely used for various offences, ranging from murder, rape, grand theft, drug smuggling, treason, piracy, cellphone use, and stealing food.

Eighty people were publicly executed earlier this month -- for offences as minor as pornography or possessing a Bible.

And from whatever little we know, it is considered an everyday thingthere.

According to eyewitnesses who have been lucky enough to flee the country, the executions have been regular and without provocation, and more often than not, entire villages have been forced to watch them, children among them.

In one known instance in 2007, as many as 150,000 people witnessed the execution of a factory chief in a stadium for making international phone calls.

This makes North Korea one of the last five countries to still perform public executions -- the other four being Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen.

Rediff.com compiles some chilling tales from a country ravaged by a regime of terror.

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Image: A North Korean soldier points at visitors near the North Korean town of Sinuiju, opposite the Chinese border city of Dandong.
Photographs: Stringer/Reuters

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80 executed for watching porn

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According to media reports, nearly 80 people were executed earlier this month in seven cities in North Korea for distributing South Korean movies or watching pornography.

Around 10 people were killed in each city by firing squads, and according to various reports, were force-witnessed by thousands of people, including children.

The corpses were so riddled by bullets that they were hard to identify, according to reports. Relatives or accomplices of the executed were rounded up and sent to prison camps.

Interestingly, there were no executions in Pyongyang, the capital. Several reports say that this could be because the leader, Kim Jong-un, depends on the support of the country’s elite. The capital continues to enjoy luxuries such as recreational facilities, including a water park.

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Image: Members of the Worker-Peasant Red Guards, the civilian forces of North Korea, shout slogans in an undisclosed location in this picture released by KCNA in Pyongyang.
Photographs: KCNA/Reuters

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KILLED for making international phone calls

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In 2007, a factory boss in South Pyongan was executed for making international phone calls on phones he had installed in the factory basement.

The killing was witnessed by a crowd of nearly 1.5 lakh spectators in a stadium. Right after the execution, si9x people crushed to death in an apparent stampede as they left the stadium.

According to reports, most North Koreans are banned from communicating with the outside world, in an attempt to prevent any challenge to the dictatorship.

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Image: A parade marks the 1948 establishment of North Korea, in Pyongyang in this still image taken from video released by KRT, North Korean state TV on September 9, 2013.
Photographs: KRT via Reuters

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9 executed to protect leader's wife from scandal?

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On August 29, 2013, 9 members of two musical groups were executed by firing squad allegedly on orders of Kim Jong-un. The key members of the band were forced to watch the killings.

The executed were accused to have been involved in a sex scandal. Other reports say that one of those executed was an ex-girlfriend of Kim Jong-un.

Interestingly, Kim’s wife Ri Sol Ju, was a former member of one of the bands Unhasu Orchestra, before she married him in June 2012. According to varying reports, the executions were carried out because of allegations by a recently-defected government official that the leader’s wife may have led a ‘provocative’ lifestyle.

Family members of those who were executed were either sent to prison camps, and the music bands were disbanded.

The two musical groups have not been seen in the media since August.

The orchestras were established under orders of Kim Jong Un's father, the late Kim Jong Il. The groups mainly performed at meetings attended by the North Korean elite.

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Image: Members of the now disbanded Unhasu Orchestra perform the 2012 New Year's concert, 'The Cause of the Sun Will Be Immortal', at the East Pyongyang Grand Theatre in Pyongyang in this photograph taken on January 5, 2012.
Photographs: Reuters/KCNA

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Minister obliterated by mortar shell -- for getting drunk

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According to widespread reports, Kim Chol, the secretive state’s former vice minister of the army -- was executed by a mortar shell blast in January last year --  for ‘disrespecting’ late ‘dear leader’ Kim Jong-il by getting drunk and carousing during the 100-day mourning period.

He was forced to stand on a spot that had been zeroed in for a mortar round, on the orders of Jong-un. According to South Korean media reports, the leader had ordered that ‘no trace of the offender be left behind, down to his hair’.

The North Korean regime had issued strict instructions to its 25 million citizens to express their sorrow at the death of Kim Jong-il by abstaining from entertainment, which included consuming alcohol.

Anyone found not showing ‘extreme distress’ was sentenced to a six-month sentence in a labour camp.

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Image: Mortar rockets are seen on display. Image for representation only.
Photographs: Ali Jasim/Reuters

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National football team humiliated for 6 hours, in public

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After losing all their matches to Portugal in the 2010 Winter Olympics, the entire squad of the North Korean football team was forced onto the stage at the People’s Palace of Culture in Pyongyang -- to be berated by 400 students, government officials, and journalists -- for six hours.

The team was subjected to a "grand debate" because they failed in their "ideological struggle" to succeed in South Africa, according to reports.

The team’s coach -- was forced to work on a building site -- for ‘betraying Kim Jong-un, and expelled from the Worker’s Party of Korea.

The team was also forced to blame their coach for the defeat.

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Image: The North Korean team at the 2010 Winter Olympics


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Facing death penalty for taking pictures in North Korea

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In November 2012, Korean-American Kenneth Bae tour operator came in the news when he was arrested while travelling with five European tourists through the Rason Special Economic zone in North Korea.

According to reports, his detainment had something to do with taking pictures while touring the country. He was charged with attempting to overthrow North Korea's government. The North Korean state agency KCNA said that Bae had admitted the charges, without saying when the verdict would be handed down.

"In the process of investigation he admitted that he committed crimes aimed to topple the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) with hostility toward it.

"His crimes were proved by evidence," the report added. "He will soon be taken to the Supreme Court of the DPRK to face judgement," it said. Officials have already suggested that Bae will face harsh punishment and possibly execution.

According to some reports, Bae is the longest-serving US detainee in North Korea since the end of the Korean War.

Clearly, taking pictures in North Korea is also a dangerous venture.


Image: Terri Chung, sister of Kenneth Bae, cries during a speech at a vigil for Kenneth Bae in Seattle, Washington
Photographs: Matt Mills McKnight/Reuters

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