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Report: North Korea carries out public executions for watching South Korean media

A wire fence protects the border on the Yalu River north of a border city in northern China across from the city of Sinuiju, North Korea. North Korea reportedly carries out public executions in schoolyards and on riverbanks for those charged with crimes such as distributing South Korean media, according to a report released Wednesday. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

North Korea conducts public executions for those charged with crimes such as distributing South Korean media, according to a report released Wednesday by a Seoul-based nongovernmental organization.

The Transitional Justice Working Group said in its report that it interviewed North Korean defectors and searched satellite images for the locations of suspected mass burial sites and killing sites as well as any evidence of crimes against humanity in North Korea. The group said it interviewed 375 North Korean defectors over a two-year period.

The report said that defectors described extra-judicial public executions on riverbanks, in sports stadiums, in marketplaces, and even on school grounds. Victims were said to have committed crimes such as stealing, prostitution and distributing South Korean media. Defectors said that such executions were more likely if the accused individual had a “bad” family background.

Victims were often beaten to death, one defector said, because "some crimes were considered not worth wasting bullets on."

The report echoes a 2014 United Nations inquiry that found a series of prison camps and human rights abuses in North Korea. North Korea dismissed the findings of that report, and Reuters noted that efforts to bring North Korea to a tribunal remain stalled “due in part to objections by China and Russia, which hold veto powers at the U.N. Security Council.”

The Transitional Justice Working Group said it hopes its report will contribute to an “international push for accountability for decades of systematic human rights abuses” in the Hermit Kingdom.

(H/T Reuters)

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