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North Korea executes 80, some for minor offenses, newspaper reports

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By The Los Angeles Times
Monday, Nov. 11, 2013, 9:12 p.m.
 

North Korea staged gruesome public executions of 80 people this month, some for offenses as minor as watching South Korean entertainment videos or being found in possession of a Bible, a South Korean newspaper reported on Monday.

The daily JoongAng Ilbo attributed the mass executions to a single, unidentified source, but at least one other news agency, run by North Korean defectors, reported hearing rumors of the killings in seven cities across the reclusive country.

Authorities in Wonsan, a port on North Korea's eastern coast that is being transformed into a resort in hopes of attracting foreign investment to the impoverished country, gathered more than 10,000 residents in a stadium and forced them to watch the firing-squad executions, the newspaper reported.

The condemned were lashed to poles, hooded, then sprayed with machine-gun fire, JoongAng Ilbo quoted its source, who reportedly is familiar with North Korean internal affairs and recently returned from the country.

“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 was quoted as saying.

If confirmed, the mass execution would be the most brutal step known to have been taken by the country's 30-year-old leader, Kim Jong Un, who came to power two years ago after the death of his father, Kim Jong Il.

The South Korean newspaper, one of the country's largest and most influential, noted that the executions occurred in cities where the communist leadership is attempting to establish entities that can earn hard currency and may have been intended to intimidate workers who stray from the regime's dictatorial social strictures.

Some of those put to death had been charged with disseminating pornography, JoongAng Ilbo said it was told by its source.

In August, Kim was reported to have ordered the executions of a dozen entertainers from the Unhasu Orchestra and the Wangjaesan Light Music Band, including ex-girlfriend Hyon Song Wol. Chosun Ilbo, another leading South Korean daily, said the troupe members reportedly filmed themselves having sex and sold the videos on the black market to earn money.

The report said a South Korean official with business in the North had been told by North Korean authorities that an investigation into the Unhasu affair suggested Kim's wife had been involved in similar prohibited activities.

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