January 13, 2011 11:18
The North Korean regime appears to have started a new reign of terror to consolidate the succession of leader Kim Jong-il's son Jong-un.
The South Korean government and a North Korean source on Wednesday said public executions more than tripled last year. And increasing numbers of North Koreans have been killed trying to cross the Apnok (or Yalu) or Duman (or Tumen) River after the regime gave a shoot-to-kill order. The party and military, meanwhile, are engulfed in a whirlwind of purges, observers believe.
◆ Public Executions
A diplomatic source familiar with North Korean affairs Wednesday said there were 60 confirmed public executions in the North last year, more than triple the number of 2009. "Since last year, the regime has put a notice on bulletin boards warning that those who use Chinese-made mobile phones or illegally circulate dollars face public execution, the source said.
Another source familiar with North Korean affairs said, "It's rumored that Kim Jong-un has called for 'gunshots across the country.' Kim Jong-il did exactly the same thing when he took power."
Jang Se-yul of the North Korean People's Liberation Front, a group of former North Korean soldiers and officers who defected to South Korea, said, "In Chongjin, North Hamgyong Province alone last year, at least six people were executed publicly on charges of human trafficking and robbery. People are executed publicly for crimes that would have sent them to prison for just a few years in the past."
"The number of public executions had gradually dwindled in the North since the famine of the late 1990s," said International security ambassador Nam Joo-hong. "But since last year, the regime has apparently relied increasingly on public executions to tighten control in the aftermath of the botched currency reform and complaints about the hereditary succession."
◆ 'Shoot-to-Kill' Order Against Defectors
Observers believe the regime has issued a shoot-to-kill order against defectors. According to a high-level source in the Changbai region in the Chinese province of Jilin, five North Koreans were shot dead and two others wounded by North Korean border guards on the Chinese side of the border after they crossed the Apnok River on Dec. 14.
And the military is being purged of unreliable elements. Quoting an internal North Korean source last Saturday, Free North Korea Radio, a shortwave broadcaster in the South, said the number of inmates has soared at a labor camp under the Ministry of People's Armed Forces in North Hamgyong Province. It said many of the inmates are former army generals who have been purged by Kim Jong-un.
The regime's determination to tighten control is also reflected in the Workers Party's new regulations, the first for 30 years. The regime recently added a new clause calling for all party members to abide by a new regulation requiring them "to oppose and fight against anti-socialist trends."
A South Korean intelligence official said the phrase refers to elements of capitalism that have flowed in from South Korea. "The regime has paved the way to publicly execute even people who watch South Korean soap operas or dress in South Korean style, branding them as anti-party elements," he said.
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