To: Paul Atreides
North Korean Escapees: Public Executions Routine in Stalinist Country:
Executions, prison camps and network of informants said to keep the hungry nation together
Pekka Mykkänen, Helsingin Sanomat
YANJI, CHINA. Hungry and Stalinist North Korea keeps its' people under firm grip with public executions and a wide network of informants and prison camps, people who escaped from the country to China, human rights organizations and various news publications say. According to the interviews with nine North Korean escapees, the public executions have become routine in their country.
The North Koreans told in the Chinese city of Yanji, that the executed ones are often first beaten up to a near-dead condition, their elbows, knees and ankles are crushed, which after they are tied to a pole and shot before a firing squad.
"Their eyes, hands, middle bodies and feet are tied. Then they shoot them in every place," tells a teenager girl, who says that altogether ten shots are being fired. She estimates to have eye-witnessed 15 executions.
A 30-year-old man tells in another interview situation, that there are nine shots. International Herald Tribune interviewed one year ago a man, who said that for each person there are three soldiers, who all shoot three times - one in the head, the other one in the chest and third one in the stomach. That testimony is in line with the information gathered in Yanji.
All of the interviewed said they had seen several public executions. "At least twenty", a middle-aged woman says. Also children are invited to come and see the executions, the North Koreans say.
"For the first time, I saw the execution from far distance. I got nightmares. But I was told, that if I look nearer, it won't come to my dreams. So, next time I went very close and it helped. I don't see dreams about it any more," explains a woman in her thirties.
North Korea has opened up enormously on the diplomatic front during the past one year and now even the visit of US President seems possible. But US State Secretary Madeleine Albright was heavily criticized last month, when she made no clear mention about the alleged human rights violations during her visit to the country.
Human Rights group Amnesty International said in its' report 1997, that the group believed it had found evidence of at least 23 public executions between 1972-1992. The North Korean government has denied the public executions and claims to use the death sentence only seldom.
Amnesty pressed, that none of the interviews was conducted in South Korea.
There are no reliable estimates of the number of executions in North Korea. South Korean authorities have spoken of hundreds. The number is believed to have grown because of the rising crime due to the severe lack of food in North Korea.
According to different testimonies, the executions have been used as punishments for minor crimes. One North Korean in Yanji tells, that he once saw a group of three executed, because they had stolen a machine from factory.
The public executions are forbidden by international covenants. In North Korea, hundreds and sometimes thousands of people go to see the executions, various sources tell.
There are also a number of unconfirmed reports of cannibals being executed. "In one of the houses in my neighborhood, the mother went crazy because of hunger. She killed her children and invited everyone to come and eat. She was captured and later executed", one North Korean says.
According to the testimonies, before the executions the propaganda machinery goes around and invites people to see the executions, meant to be lessons, over the megaphones.
A South Korean Human Rights group called Citizens' Alliance to Help Political Prisoners in North Korea has collected information on public executions from about hundred defectors that it has interviewed.
"I believe they actually take place", the group's head, Rev. Benjamin Yoon says in his e-mail.
One of the interviewees told, that she had seen an execution on September 26th in Mushan city near the border of China. Altogether 13 people, six of them women, had been shot. "Some of them were anti-revolutionary, some had stolen copper wire and three old women had been selling younger ladies as wives to China", she says.
According to some sources, the atheist North Korea has executed Christians with made-up charges of various crimes. "We have received information that within the past three months eleven Christians have been executed. We have their names and we are investigating the claims. Thousands of Christians have been imprisoned", an American-Korean aid-worker says in Yanji.
"The public executions aim to frighten the people into submission. By making an example of one they warn all to obey," explains Benjamin Yoon.
According to the satellite images and interviews collected by the US and South Korean intelligence, there are twelve large prison camps for about 200 000 political prisoners in North Korea. The country is also estimated to have some 200 smaller camps for regular criminals.
According to some estimates, over 400 000 people have died in the North Korean gulags since 1972.
One method for suppressing people, according to the North Koreans, is the wide network of informants. "You can't trust anybody. Even though your best friend is not an informant, he may one day turn you in, in order to gain a better position for himself," one man says.
According to experts, many North Koreans are critical of their system, but fearing the sentences, there is no real opposition threatening the system. Criticism against the leader Kim Jong-il is a harsh crime that no one dares to commit, the interviewees say.
"He is good. And even though he isn't, we would not say, that he is not," one North Korean formulates.
posted on 10/20/2002 12:39:46 PM PDT
"For the first time, I saw the execution from far distance. I got nightmares.
But I was told, that if I look nearer, it won't come to my dreams. So, next time I
went very close and it helped. I don't see dreams about it any more," explains
a woman in her thirties.
Amazing how Heinrich Himmler and this middle-aged lady both learned how to deal with
daily evil. Just get emmersed suffiently and eventually, it's no big deal.
posted on 10/20/2002 12:58:51 PM PDT
According to the interviews with nine North Korean escapees, the public executions
have become routine in their country.
This will come as a big shock...only to lefties/Democrats who
don't know (or don't want to know) history.
A couple of years ago when the Korean War was being commemorated, I read an article
about a man (living in South Korea since the war) who lived in some of the Communist-dominated
part of Korea at the start of the conflict.
The Communists jailed him for evading military service; he said that he had to watch
jailers' treatment of prisoners chained to walls of the prison.
The guards hacked some of them to death with hatchets, some were set on fire and burned alive.
I'll never forget the man said, given there is no love lost between Koreans and their
former occupiers, the Japanese:
"The Communists were worse than the Japanese."
And this was in a front-page article in The Los Angeles Times.
posted on 10/20/2002 1:04:10 PM PDT
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