Capital punishment in North Korea

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Capital punishment is a legal and often-used form of punishment in North Korea for many offences, such as grand theft, murder, rape, drug smuggling, treason, espionage, political dissidence, defection, piracy, consumption of media not approved by the government and proselytizing religious beliefs that contradict practiced Juche ideology. Current working knowledge of the topic depends heavily on the accounts of defectors. Executions are mostly carried out by firing squad, hanging or decapitation in public, making North Korea one of the last five countries to still perform public executions, the other four being Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen.

Human rights organizations have collected testimony on 1,193 executions in North Korea through 2009.[1]

Reported executions[edit]

According to the Daily NK, a pro-democracy online newspaper set up by North Korean exiles in South Korea, a South Korean aid agency reported that a 74-year-old stone cutting factory chief in Suncheon, South Pyongan was executed on October 5, 2007 in front of 170,000 people in Suncheon Stadium for "hiding his father’s credentials and promoting himself as a patriot".[2] Fox News claimed the agency's report said he faced a firing squad for making international phone calls.[3] Six people were crushed to death and thirty-four others injured in a stampede as they left the stadium.[2][3]

On November 3, 2013, according to a JoongAng Ilbo report, at least 80 people were publicly executed for minor offenses. The executions were said to be carried out simultaneously in Wonsan, Chongjin, Sariwon, Pyongsong and three other North Korean cities for crimes such as watching South Korean movies, watching South Korean pornography or possessing a South Korean Bible. According to a witness from Wonsan, 10,000 residents were forced to watch when eight people were shot with a machine-gun at the local Shinpoong stadium.[4]

On December 13, 2013, the North Korean state media announced the execution of Jang Sung-taek, the uncle by marriage of North Korea's leader at the time, Kim Jong-un.[5] The South Korean National Intelligence Service believes that two of his closest aides, Lee Yong-ha and Jang Soo-keel, were executed in mid-November.[6] According to a South Korean newspaper, Jang's nephew, O Sang-hon, was executed by being burnt alive with a flame thrower.[7][8]

Capital punishment in prison camps[edit]

Amnesty International says torture and executions are widespread in political prisons in North Korea.[9] Testimonies describe secret and public executions in North Korean prisons by firing squad, decapitation or by hanging.[10] Executions are used as a means of deterrence, often accompanied by torture.[11] Prisoners are executed for acts like stealing food, attempting to escape, refusing to abandon religious belief, or criticizing the government.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "White Paper on North Korean Human Rights 2009" (PDF). North Korean Human Rights Database Center. May 31, 2009. Retrieved December 3, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b "A Suncheon Factory Manager Publicly Executed for the Crime of Hiding Identity.". Daily NK. August 30, 2009. 
  3. ^ a b "150,000 Witness North Korea Execution of Factory Boss Whose Crime Was Making International Phone Calls". Fox News. 2009-04-28. 
  4. ^ Lee, Young-Jong (November 11, 2013). "Public executions seen in 7 North Korea cities". 'Korea JoongAng Daily. Retrieved December 3, 2013. 
  5. ^ "Even by North Korean standards, this announcement of Jang Song Thaek’s execution is intense". Washington Post. December 12, 2013. Retrieved December 13, 2013. 
  6. ^ "Seoul: Kim Jung Un Fires Uncle, Executes his Associates". Voice of Asia News. December 3, 2013. Retrieved December 3, 2013. 
  7. ^ Julian Ryall (7 April 2014). "North Korean official 'executed by flame-thrower'". The Daily Telegraph. 
  8. ^ "N.Korea Shuts Down Jang Song-taek's Department". Chosun Ilbo. 7 April 2014. 
  9. ^ "Amnesty: Torture, Execution Rampant in Vast N. Korea Prisons". Voice of Asia News. December 4, 2013. Retrieved December 13, 2013. 
  10. ^ "Political Prison Camps in North Korea Today" (PDF), Database Center for North Korean Human Rights, July 15, 2011, retrieved December 13, 2013  |chapter= ignored (help)
  11. ^ "North Korea: A case to answer – a call to act" (PDF). Christian Solidarity Worldwide. June 20, 2007. pp. 36–37. Retrieved December 13, 2013.