Kim Jong-Un’s North Korea is a notoriously brutal, oppressive place. Last December, the ruler had his uncle and mentor Jan Song Thaek executed; now, he has ordered that another 33 North Koreans be executed for attempting to overthrow his regime.
The 33 Koreans soon to face death had worked with South Korean Baptist missionary Kim Jung-wook, who was arrested last year. They had received money to set up 500 underground churches.
Last week, Kim Jung-wook held a press conference, at which he appealed for his release from North Korean custody. He apologized for committing “anti-state” crimes, and said that at the time of his arrest in early October, he was returning to Pyongyang from China. He told reporters that he was carrying Bibles, Christian instructional materials and movies.
Kim Jung-wook also claimed that he had received assistance from South Korea’s intelligence agency, including money and instructions.
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“I was thinking of turning North Korea into a religious country, and destroying its present government and political system,” he said.
Jung-wook said that he set up an underground church in Dandong in China, and “got the members to talk and write, for me to collect details about the reality of life in North Korea, and I provided this to the intelligence services.”
Throughout the press conference, North Korean officials showed videos of North Koreans confessing to coming in contact with Jung-wook.
A South Korean intelligence source in China, however, has said that Jung-wook did not enter North Korea voluntarily. Instead, they maintain that agents of the Pyongyang government in China kidnapped him.
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The 33 Koreans who collaborated with Kim Jung-wook will be put to death in a cell at the State Security Department. This punishment is considered harsher than is typical of Jong-Un’s style, which experts believe can be attributed to the fact that Kim Jong-Un is currently also combatting a larger wave of dissatisfaction with his isolationist regime.
There are said to have been between 40 to 80 public mass executions in North Korea in 2013 alone.
Reports on Tuesday indicated that North Korea’s number two leader Choe Ryong Hae, who displeased the leader by taking management of several state-owned industries, has disappeared. It is believed that he is current in jail and being interrogated, but many fear that he, too will soon be purged.
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