Clarissa Aurielle reports on the shocking reports of public executions in North Korea and examines how the country’s human rights abuses may undermine their foreign policy.
When people think of North Korea, it seems to reek of despair and isolation and there has been no shortage of bad and horrifying news emerging, solidifying its infamously dangerous reputation. The list of less than pleasing atrocities and nouns associated with North Korea is nothing short of a nightmare on earth come true and at the top of this food chain is its tyrannical president, Kim Jong-Un. He’s a third generation dictator who further cemented inhumane and restrictive regulations on his nation while sporting a strikingly unique hair cut, reminiscent of a sweeping broom. This autocratic supreme leader not only possesses nuclear weapons at his disposal but also complete control of his government and its media. Despite that, he still manages to come across as a homicidal, psychopathic man to the rest of the world.
Citizens live in fear and absolute conformity
In the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or, more commonly known as, North Korea, most, if not all, citizens live in fear and absolute conformity as any form of mutiny or disobedience will result in brutal punishments not limited to public executions, sexual violence, prolonged torture, deliberate starvation, cold-blooded murder, enslavement, forced labor, extermination, enforced disappearance and persecution over the simplest things (United Nations, 2014) and no one, not including the president’s own family, is an exception – his uncle and his family was reportedly publicly executed in a gruesome fashion, in which the method of how it was done is yet to be uncovered. Public execution, here, is still instilled as a power play to consolidate the president’s “Stalinist” hold against his people and maintaining the sense of fear in the heart’s of its citizens.
A South-Korea based human rights group has claimed that they have pin-pointed over 300 public execution sites. Hundreds of North Korean defectors have been interviewed and each of them recalled the disgusting and unforgettable events that they’ve witnessed. Public execution sites include rivers, mountains, schools and open fields and masses of people would be herded in to watch, while drunken executioners proceed to do the deed. Across time, it is these kinds of actions that continue to be penned down in the history books and what makes people think twice at the mention of North Korea, and not in a good way.
China can play an important role in North Korea’s vantage point
Quite recently, however, the amount of public executions is on a downward trend as political interest shifts to making more allies outside of state and it’s been reported that the intention of creating a more normal front to the public eye, is that it will allow for a more effortless courtship on North Korea’s part and for potential allies to lower their guard. Although, that is not to say, that these transgressions are not carried out privately. As of late, North Korea has been making headlines as there have been many official visits with other countries for diplomatic purposes and to potentially secure international allies and support. If North Korea’s official get-together with the United States alone is any indication, after two failed, inconclusive denuclearisation summit – the hot and cold, frenemy-like relationship is the most that can be achieved; And this is with a meeting with Donald Trump, a man who probably shares more similarities, including provocative behaviour, than one can think of with Kim Jong-Un. The most advantageous partner that North Korea probably has in their corner at the moment is China and in the midst of the US-China trade war, China can play an important role in North Korea’s vantage point. Having said that, many have questioned whether it is North Korea reaping benefits from the partnership or rather China that is using this partnership to its advantage by flaunting its relationship with the monocratic nation.
It is yet to be seen, what other tactics Kim Jong-Un has up his sleeve to better his, and his country’s, image. However, what can be seen so far on the treacherous battlefield of international diplomacy, is that North Korea is an open, moving target that everyone wants to either be rid of or take advantage of.