Hundreds of sites where North Korea is believed to have conducted public executions have been revealed as part of new research.
The Seoul-based Transitional Justice Working Group has mapped hundreds of locations where witnesses claim North Korea carried out public executions and extrajudicial state killings, designed to intimidate and control citizens.
North Korea’s public executions tended to happen near rivers, in fields and on hills, and also at marketplaces and school grounds, the report said.
Residents and family members of those sentenced are often forced to attend the killings.
Experts believe the aggressive use of the death penalty is designed to provoke fear among citizens.
The human rights group said Tuesday its research was based on interviews conducted over four years with 610 North Korean defectors, who helped locate the sites with satellite imagery.
The group hasn’t revealed the exact locations of the 323 sites because it’s worried 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.
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.
The Associated Press could not independently verify the report, and the group acknowledged its findings weren’t definite because it didn’t have direct access to North Korea and could not visit the sites defectors told it about.
Heeseok Shim, one of the report’s authors, also said interviews with defectors suggested public executions in North Korea were becoming less frequent, although it was unclear whether that was because more people were being executed in secret.