By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) - North Korea executed at least seven people for “watching or distributing South Korean videos," including popular music, known as K-pop, according to a report obtained by Worthy News.
The findings were documented by the Transitional Justice Working Group (TJWG), a Seoul-based human rights group with advocates and researchers from five countries.
The report also added to ongoing global concerns about North Korean Christians facing documented torture and executions in notorious prison camps and at other locations.
Watching K-pop, South Korea’s famed pop genre, and other South Korean images were also critical reasons for executions under North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, TJWG said.
Titled “Mapping Killings Under Kim Jong-Un,” the rights group’s extensive report documented findings with the help of 638 defectors who cooperated with the report’s authors.
The group noted at least one reported example of a man executed for illegally selling CDs and USBs containing South Korean movies, dramas, and music videos.
ANTI K-POP CAMPAIGN
The revelations came after Kim reportedly launched an anti-K-pop campaign to impose harsher penalties on citizens caught listening to the popular genre of music from South Korea.
Since Kim came to power a decade ago, there was a minimum of “7 instances” of executions for “watching or distributing South Korean videos” connected to, for instance, K-pop, TJWG said.
The well-documented report raised questions as to why South Korean girl band Red Velvet could perform in Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital, on April 1, 2018.
Among the other deaths, at least one resulted from "alleged relations to South Korea," defined as "brokering escapees from North Korea," as well as one case of illegal border crossing.
Reasons for the dozens of documented Kim-era executions also included “drug-related crimes (5), prostitution (5), human trafficking (4), murder or attempted murder (3), and “obscene acts” (3).”
The executions were reportedly often done in public as a warning sign to others – and relatives of those put to death were forced to witness the deadly punishments.
A graphic description of one such execution included the detail that "people were made to stand in line and look at the executed person in the face as a warning message."
Some cases involved neighborhood group leaders receiving the announcement of execution ahead of time to bring their groups to watch the events.
A woman who led one such group said she brought roughly 20 women to watch an execution in 2013.
“Interviewees reported that inhumane treatment of the accused before execution—used as a warning to the public—has persisted under Kim Jong-un,” the report said.
Only in “some cases pardons were issued to propagandize the benevolence of Kim Jong-un,” TJWG added.
TJWG has interviewed North Korean defectors since 2015 to map out execution sites and numbers better.
Under North Korea’s hardline leader, Christians have also been targeted, with at least tens of thousands of believers being held in notorious prison camps, according to sources familiar with the situation.
“Being discovered as a Christian is a death sentence in North Korea. If you aren’t killed instantly, you will be taken to a labor camp as a political criminal,” said advocacy group Open Doors.
“These inhumane prisons have horrific conditions, and few believers make it out alive. Everyone in your family will share the same punishment.”
North Korea ranks number 1 on the Open Doors annual World Watch List of 50 nations where it says it is most difficult to be a Christian.
Under Kim, only devotion to the leader is allowed, and devoted Christians are seen as a threat to his power base and ideology, Worthy News documented in recent years.
“The North Korean citizens are like slaves.
With the light of the Lord, they would be freed,” said a North Korean Christian, identified as Hee-Yol, in published remarks.
“I ask those who have been praying for North Korea from all around the world to pray for North Korea to be able to come to the Gospel,”
Hee-Yol added in remarks cited by Open Doors.
Kim Jong-un is reported to have expanded the system of prison camps, in which an estimated 50-70,000 Christians are currently imprisoned.
“Most Christians cannot meet with other believers and have to keep their faith entirely hidden. There are even stories of husbands and wives not knowing, for many years, that their spouse was also a Christian,” Open Doors added.
“Secret police carry out raids to identify Christians, and children are encouraged to tell their teachers about any sign of faith in their parents’ home. A Christian is never safe.”
Dissidents had hoped that Kim, often described as “a Swiss-educated chubby young man,” would choose the path of reforms when he came to power after his father’s death.
Instead, he chose to continue the authoritarian policies of his late father, who died precisely a decade ago, observers say.
Tightly controlled North Korean state media announced that Kim Jong-il, their "dear leader," had died at 69. It was December 19, 2011.