North Korea has publicly executed 80 people for watching foreign television programmes, a South Korean newspaper claimed today.
Seoul’s JoongAng Ilbo daily reported that the killings were carried out in seven separate cities on November 3, with an alleged 10,000 people forced to attend one group execution held in a sports stadium in the eastern port city Wonsan.
Citing a “single unidentified” individual as the source of the story, the newspaper said the majority of those executed had been charged with “watching illicit South Korean TV dramas and some with prostitution”.
The source is said to be familiar with North Korea’s internal affairs and had only very recently left the country. His story gained credibility when Daily NK – an online media agency run by North Korean defectors – said it had also heard the reports of mass executions taking place.
During the front page report, the JoongAng Ilbo reporter cites another defector group as saying it had warned of a forthcoming wave of executions several months ago.
A spokesman for North Korea Intellectual Solidarity reportedly said “The regime is obviously afraid of potential changes in people's mind-sets and is pre-emptively trying to scare people off”.
Watching films or television from capitalist countries – especially South Korea - is a serious offence in North Korea, but despite the risk of execution, shows like Desperate Housewives from the US have acquired a large following.
It is thought the majority of the programmes are smuggled into the country on DVDs, MP3 players and Flash drives.