December 16, 2021 12:07
An international human rights group has reconstructed the killings of the North Korean regime and how it tries to hide its crimes against humanity from the international community.
Based on satellite images and new testimony from defectors, the Seoul-based Transitional Justice Working Group on Wednesday published a report titled "Mapping Killings under Kim Jong-un: North Korea's Response to International Pressure" that meticulously reconstructs the North's executions, the sites where they take place and where the dead are buried.
The report analyses where and how executions were carried out based on interviews with 683 defectors who arrived in South Korea over the past six years, while using satellite imagery to locate sites and applying Geographic Information Systems technology.
It shows how executions have shifted to sites where information is easier to control by banning mobile phone use citing 27 records of executions at sites that have been used since Kim came into power. Twenty-three were public executions by firing squad and two hangings.
One defector reported that in Pyongyang between 2012 and 2013, officials forced the family of the victims to sit in the front row and watch the entire process. One man fainted when he saw the body of his son burned.
In the northeastern city of Hamhung in 2012, executors had people stand in line so that they could see the face of a person whose head was crushed after a public execution. In Sariwon, North Hwanghae Province in 2014, the mouth of a person tied to a post was filled with pebbles before he was executed.
The most common charges cited for public executions include watching or distributing South Korean videos, drug crimes, prostitution, human trafficking, murder or attempted murder, and "obscene acts."
The regime bans mobile phones at execution sites to prevent information leaks and deployed radio devices and vehicles for surveillance and control. Executions typically "occurred in places such as Hyesan Airfield or in the surrounding hills/mountains and open spaces/fields away from the border and central area of the city."
Testimony suggests that public executions are declining but killings continue in secret. Students were "systematically mobilized" to attend public trials.
The TJWG warned that the flow of information is drying up. "The nearly complete closure of North Korea's border with China as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak since January 2020 has severely hampered the already limited flow of information in and out of the country and restricted the number of North Koreans reaching South Korea. This has made it difficult to find research participants to provide information on human rights violations that have occurred during the past two years," it added.
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