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Ten Years of Kim Jong Un: North Korea Imposes Death Penalty For Pop Video Politics

by archysport

By Fabian Kretschmer

Basketball fan Kim Jong Un in conversation with former NBA star Dennis Rodman.

Photo: dpa / Kcna

The fact that Kim Jong Un still does not shy away from public shootings is documented by an NGO with testimony.

By Fabian Kretschmer

December 27, 2021 – 3:24 pm

Pyongyang – The human rights crimes of the North Korean regime are often exaggerated into the grotesque in the media. But some of the almost unbelievable atrocities are essentially true: Citizens under the Kim regime are still being judged in public – and sometimes only because they have watched “illegal” videos from South Korea.

The “Transitional Justice Working Group” based in Seoul tries like no other NGO to systematically document the state violence of the North Korean government. Her aim is to fight against oblivion: Should there ever be a reunification on the Korean island, those responsible for the North Korean regime should be held accountable and the victims should be given legal recognition.

Civil rights activists have interviewed refugees for years

For their latest report, the civil rights activists systematically interviewed nearly 700 North Korean refugees over a period of six years: They were presented with satellite photos of their hometowns to understand the worst of the state atrocities – public executions.

Many of the displaced North Koreans, especially along the border regions with China, where smuggling, bribery and human trafficking are flourishing, talk about shootings in an almost everyday tone. These usually take place outdoors, for example on airfields or fields on the outskirts. Often not only the relatives of the condemned have to be present at the executions, but also the entire neighborhood – obviously as a deterrent. “Even when fluid was already emerging from the condemned’s brain, people still had to stand in line and look him in the face,” says one of the North Koreans interviewed in the study.

23 public executions are proven

The NGO can prove 23 such public executions during Kim Jong Uns’s rule. Almost all of them happened in Hyesan – the border town that most refugees first pass on their route to China. Death sentences were passed for drugs, prostitution and murder, and in seven cases also for watching and distributing South Korean videos.

In fact, information from abroad is an existential threat to the regime in Pyongyang – and not just in the form of political leaflets, but often as trivial soap operas and K-pop videos. Because just showing scenes from the ultra-modern, affluent neighboring country in the south is a real shock for many impoverished North Koreans. As a study by the “Database Center for North Korean Human Information” in Seoul shows, information from abroad played a role in the desire to flee for almost two thirds of all North Koreans who later settled in South Korea.

Scientifically recording the human rights crimes of recent years beyond individual eyewitness reports is currently more important than it has been in a long time: Since the corona pandemic, the already shielded country has been completely closed. Independent information is hardly ever made available to the outside world.

Ten years ago, observers were hopeful

Ten years ago, quite a few observers were hopeful when Kim Jong Un climbed the North Korean dictatorial chair after the surprising death of his father. They pointed out that Kim Junior lived as a primary school student in Bern, Switzerland, and became a fan of the US basketball league NBA there. Somebody like that would certainly open up his country economically and possibly also politically, it said.

But practically the opposite has happened: within a few years, Kim Jong Un cemented his power through a wave of Stalinist purges that exceeded anything in brutality that North Korea had experienced in decades. In 2017, he allegedly also had his half-brother Kim Jong Nam poisoned with nerve gas at Kuala Lumpur Airport.

At the same time, North Korea’s rulers are sticking to their nuclear and missile program as life insurance for the regime – a decision that a priori denies the country economic development.

Where North Korea will be in another ten years, the specialist medium NK News recently asked more than 80 of the country’s leading observers. The most likely scenario is more than sobering: the population will suffer a “major humanitarian crisis” and “food shortages” while the political elite continue to push ahead with its nuclear program.


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