Shots Fired

Early November, North Korea publicly executed around 80 people across seven cities—the first known mass scale public executions under Kim Jong-Un, only a few months after he ordered the execution of an ex-girlfriend for producing pornography—which was intended to remove any suspicions in regards to the first lady’s involvement.

In Wonsan, Kangwon Province (an eastern port), authorities gathered 10,000 civilians in the Shinpoong Sports Stadium and forced them to witness the execution of eight people. Covered with white hoods and restricted to poles, those executed were subjected to rapid machine gun fire, and their alleged accomplices and relatives were sent to prison camps. None of the deceased were charged with capital crimes—sedition, treason, terrorism—instead, they were charged with minor offenses like watching South Korean TV drama, involvement in prostitution or the distribution of pornography, and possession of the Bible.

While the regime is known for public executions to discourage any foreign influence and to intimidate its people, these series of executions were performed simultaneously over a weekend, across cities that were designated for foreign investment. The act implies perhaps a pre-emptive strategy by Pyongyang to deter any public unrest or “capitalistic zeal” prompted by the new economic prospects. (Read more about the newly designated economic zones here.) There was not an execution in Pyongyang, as Kim Jong-Un relies on the support of his small group of elites, as he continues to build luxurious facilities to earn their loyalty.

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