In the News – N. Korea executed at least three over cannibalism: think tank
SEOUL, May 10 (Yonhap) — North Korea has held public executions of at least three people on charges of cannibalism in recent years, a South Korean state-run institute said Thursday, the latest development that could support what has long been rumored in the isolated country.
There have been accounts among North Korean defectors in the South that some North Koreans ate and sold human flesh during the massive famine in the late 1990s that was estimated to have killed 2 million people.
A North Korean man in the northeastern city of Hyesan was executed in December 2009 for killing a preteen girl and eating her flesh, the Korea Institute for National Unification said in a white paper on human rights in North Korea, which is set to be released next week.
The man committed the crime because of a lack of food following Pyongyang’s botched currency reform in late 2009 that caused massive inflation and worsened food shortages, the white paper said, citing an interview with an unidentified defector in June last year.
The institute held in-depth interviews with 230 North Korean defectors in the South last year as part of efforts to glean fresh information on the North’s situation ahead of publication of its annual white paper.
An activist calls for a stop to public executions in North Korea during a rally in Seoul in mid-April. (Yonhap file photo)
The interviewees account for just a fraction of the more than 23,500 North Korean defectors who have settled in the South since the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty.
The white paper, the gist of which was obtained by Yonhap News Agency, also said a father and his son were shot to death in the eastern town of Doksong in 2006 on charges of eating human flesh, citing an eyewitness account of a North Korean defector.
The institute also said there was an account of cannibalism in the country’s northeastern town of Musan in 2011, though it was not known whether any punishment was meted out.
Last year, Caleb Mission, a small South Korean missionary group, unveiled a 2009 North Korean police document, which, among other things, chronicled several cases of cannibalism amid an acute food shortage in the communist country.
In one account, a male guard who could not bear his hunger killed his colleague using an ax, ate some of the human flesh and sold the remainder in the market by disguising it as mutton, the North Korean police report said, without giving any further details such as when the alleged crime occurred.
A former North Korean official who defected to the South 2001 said Thursday that he heard about more than a dozen cases of cannibalism from a North Korean intelligence official around 1999.
He said the practice appears to have ended in the North, citing his recent telephone conversation with another former North Korean official in the North. He asked not to be identified, citing safety concerns.
Still, the claim could not be independently verified as the North strictly restricts outside access to the country.
Despite the North’s crackdowns, some North Koreans near the border with China use Chinese mobile phones to keep in touch with their relatives and friends in South Korea and China, according to defectors.
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