According to a report by its rival South Korea, North Korea executes people for sharing South Korean media, engaging in religious activities, and drug offenses, as the country stifles its citizens’ human rights and freedom.
The Unification Ministry of South Korea, which handles inter-Korean affairs, based the 450-page report on testimony collected from more than 500 North Koreans who fled their homeland from 2017 to 2022.
The report, which the ministry released on Thursday, stated that North Korean authorities widely carry out executions for acts that do not warrant the death penalty, such as drug crimes, distribution of South Korean videos, and engaging in religious and superstitious activities.
The ministry stated that North Korean authorities greatly threaten the right to life of its citizens. Although Reuters could not independently verify the South Korean government’s findings, they aligned with investigations conducted by the United Nations and reports from non-governmental organizations.
North Korea has rejected criticism of its rights conditions as part of a plot to overthrow its rulers.
The report detailed rampant state-led rights abuses in communities, prison camps, and elsewhere, including public executions, torture, and arbitrary arrests. According to the ministry, deaths and torture regularly occur in detention facilities, and authorities have summarily executed some people after catching them trying to cross the border.
North Korea deserves ‘not a single penny’
The report came as South Korea seeks to highlight its isolated neighbour’s failure to improve living conditions while racing to boost its nuclear and missile arsenals.
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol said the report should better inform the international community of the North’s “gruesome” abuses, saying North Korea deserved “not a single penny” of economic aid while it pursues its nuclear ambitions.
The approach by the conservative Yoon is a distinct departure from that of his liberal predecessor, Moon Jae-in, who faced criticism for his less outspoken position on the North’s rights as he sought to improve ties and build rapport with its leader, Kim Jong Un.
The Unification Ministry is required by law to annually assess the North’s rights situation.
Nearly 34,000 North Koreans have settled in South Korea, but the number of defectors has fallen sharply because of tighter border security.