North Korean soldiers in a military parade held in February 2023. Screen capture from KCTV.

On September 25, a man was executed by firing squad in Hyesan, Yanggang Province, in the northern region of North Korea. The execution was made public, with locals mobilized to watch the proceedings. This is the second report of a public execution in Hyesan this year, following the execution of nine people on August 30. A reporting partner in the city gave the following report. (KANG Ji-won)

◆ Nine people were executed by firing squad in August

The reporting partner said that he found out about the public execution during the morning of September 25. The authorities had handed down an order for people to gather that afternoon at Hyesan Airfield, which was where nine people had been executed by firing squad on August 30. The reporting partner said that he had been very shocked after seeing the August execution, so he did not go to the September execution with the excuse that he did not feel well. The reporting partner said he heard about the execution after it was carried out from people mobilized to watch it.

“At first, the authorities said that two people would be executed by firing squad. One was a woman who had attempted to murder her husband. Ultimately, the only person executed was a man. He was accused of selling medical supplies, considered ‘war-time materials,’ to a medicine seller. The authorities said he had earned a lot of money when Chinese medicines had not been entering the country due to COVID-19. At the execution site, he was sentenced to a grave legal punishment for his selfishness in selling off the state’s medicines.”

While the man’s execution is a far too heavy punishment for having sold off some medicines, the Kim Jong-un regime told its people that it would eliminate private sales of medicines and privately-run medical practices starting in August. This suggested that the regime would strongly crackdown on such activities.

◆ People who refuse to listen will not be forgiven

The reporting partner explained:

“In July, the (COVID-19) Emergency Quarantine Headquarters conducted an investigation that found empty bottles of medicine in a (wartime supplies) storage facility, leading to four arrests. However, three people escaped, with only one person being executed by firing squad. The authorities used the recent execution by firing squad to tell people to voluntarily turn in those who illegally sell or distribute medicines.”

Just like in August, the recent execution took place in Hyesan, which is on the border with China. The authorities conducted the execution with the knowledge that information about it would quickly seep to the outside world. ASIAPRESS received an unconfirmed report recently that public executions also took place in Chongjin and Hamhung after the start of August.

The restart of public executions – the most extreme form of crime prevention – appears to be due to a decision by the Kim Jong-un regime to rule over the country with fear. The reporting partner told ASIAPRESS that “the authorities don’t forgive people for doing things that are illegal. They say that people should just work hard on the things they’re told to do. Given that the government is really conducting executions by firing squad, people are telling each other to be careful.”

The reporting partner also said that he had heard from a police official that seven people are set to be executed by firing squad in Hyesan for murder, violent behavior, and fleeing (from the police) in a group. The seven are currently awaiting the final decision on their cases, and their relatives are doing all they can to prevent them from being executed.

On September 29, the US-based Radio Free Asia reported in detail about the September 25 execution by firing squad.

※ ASIAPRESS communicates with reporting partners through Chinese cell phones smuggled into North Korea.

Map of North Korea ( ASIAPRESS)