According to South Korea's daily JoongAng newspaper, the coordinated executions occurred in seven North Korean cities, with an estimated ten people killed at each locale.
An unidentified source reported that officials in the port city of Wonsan, on North Korea's eastern coast, gathered more than ten thousand residents into a local stadium and forced them to watch the firing squad executions. The source, who reportedly is familiar with North Korean internal affairs, said victims were lashed to poles, hooded, and then mowed down with machine gun fire. “I heard from the residents that they watched in terror as the corpses were so riddled by machine-gun fire that they were hard to identify afterwards,” the source told the newspaper.
“The Wonsan victims were mostly charged with watching or illegally trafficking South Korean videos, being involved in prostitution, or being in possession of a Bible,” reported the JoongAng newspaper. “Accomplices or relatives of the executed people who were implicated in their alleged crimes were sent to prison camps. The reason for the executions wasn’t immediately clear. They seem to have occurred in cities that are centers of economic development, according to a government official.”
While the newspaper cited only one source, other Korean news agencies appeared to corroborate the executions.
Those with knowledge of North Korea's inner workings speculated the executions were intended to intimidate workers who may be tempted by Western influence. One North Korean defector told Agence France-Presse that “the regime is obviously afraid of potential changes in people's mind-sets and is preemptively trying to scare people off.”
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