SEOUL, South Korea – A human rights group said Tuesday it has identified hundreds of spots where witnesses claim North Korea carried out public executions and extrajudicial state killings as part of an arbitrary and aggressive use of the death penalty that is meant to intimidate its citizens.
The Seoul-based Transitional Justice Working Group said its research was based on interviews with 610 North Korean defectors conducted over four years who helped locate the sites with satellite imagery.
The group didn’t reveal the exact locations of the 323 sites because it’s worried that North Korea will tamper with them, but said 267 of them were located in two northeastern provinces near the border with China, the area where most of the defectors who participated in the study came from.
North Korea’s public executions tend to happen near rivers, in fields and on hills, and also at marketplaces and school grounds — places where residents and family members of those sentenced are often forced to attend the killings, the report said.
The group also said it documented 25 sites where the dead were allegedly disposed of by the state and also found official locations that may have documents or other evidence related to the killings.
South Korea’s Korea Institute for National Unification, a state-sponsored think tank, expressed similar views on its annual white paper on North Korea’s human rights released last week. The institute said the North still uses public executions to provoke fear and control the behavior of its citizens, particularly in city and border areas where crimes are more prevalent.