Thousands of North Korean defectors to South Korea have lived in or have passed through Hyesan. The city of 200,000 people is the main gateway for outside information, including South Korean entertainment stored on computer memory sticks and bootlegged across the border from China. As such, Hyesan has become a focus in Mr. Kim’s efforts to stop the infiltration of K-pop.
Of the seven executions for watching or distributing South Korean videos, all but one took place in Hyesan, the report says. The six in Hyesan occurred between 2012 and 2014. Citizens were mobilized to watch the grisly scenes, where officials called the condemned social evil before they each were put to death by a total of nine shots fired by three soldiers.
“The families of those being executed were often forced to watch the execution,” the report said.
Mr. Kim rules North Korea with the help of a personality cult and a state propaganda machine that controls nearly every aspect of life in the North. All radios and television sets are set to receive government broadcasts only. People are blocked from using the global internet. But some North Koreans still manage to secretly watch South Korea’s movies and TV dramas. As the North’s economy has floundered amid the pandemic and international sanctions, defections to the South have continued.
And a few secretly filmed video clippings of public trials and executions have been smuggled out of North Korea. In footage shown on the South Korean TV station Channel A last year, a North Korean student was brought before a huge throng of people, including fellow students, and was condemned for possessing a USB stick that held “a movie and 75 songs from South Korea.”
Shin Eun-ha told Channel A of a public execution she and her classmates had been made to watch from the front row when she was in second grade in North Korea. “The prisoner could hardly walk and had to be dragged out,” she said, adding, “I was so terrified that I could not dare look at a soldier in uniform for six months afterward.”
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