SEOUL – North Korea publicly executed around 80 people earlier this month, many for watching smuggled South Korean TV shows — the first known large-scale public executions under leader Kim Jong Un — a report said Monday.
The South Korean JoongAng Ilbo daily cited a single, unidentified source, but at least one group of North Korean defectors said it had heard rumors that lent credibility to the front-page report.
The source, said to be “familiar” with the North’s internal affairs and recently returned from the country, said the executions were carried out in seven cities on Nov. 3.
In the eastern port of Wonsan, authorities gathered 10,000 people in a sports stadium to watch the execution of eight people by firing squad, the source quoted one eyewitness as saying.
Most were charged with watching illicit South Korean TV dramas, and some with prostitution.
Watching unsanctioned foreign films or TV — especially those from the capitalist South — is a serious offense in North Korea.
Several of the cities, including Wonsan and Pyongsong, in the west, have been designated as special economic zones aimed at attracting foreign investment to boost the North’s moribund economy.
In Wonsan, eight people were tied to stakes at a local stadium, had their heads covered with white sacks and were shot dead with a machine gun, the source said.
One defector-run website, North Korea Intellectual Solidarity, said its sources had reported several months ago on plans for a wave of public executions.
The simultaneous executions held on a weekend in the cities suggest that the central government is ramping up its efforts to stamp out public unrest and capitalistic zeal accompanying its development projects, the report said.