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Capital punishment is a legal and often used form of punishment in North Korea and is used for many offences, such as grand theft, murder, rape, drug smuggling, treason, espionage, political dissidence, defection, piracy, consumption of media not approved by the government, and proselytizing religious ideals that contradict practiced Juche ideology, with current knowledge depending heavily on the accounts of defectors. Executions are mostly carried out by firing squad in public, making North Korea one of the last five countries to still perform public executions, the other four being Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen.
Human rights organizations have collected testimonies for 1193 executions in North Korea until 2009.
According to the Daily NK, a pro-democracy online newspaper set up by North Korean exiles in South Korea, a South Korean aid agency reported that a 74 year-old stone cutting factory chief in Suncheon, South Pyongan was executed on October 5, 2007 in front of 170,000 people in Suncheon Stadium for "hiding his father’s credentials and promoting himself as a patriot." Fox News claimed the agency's report said he faced a firing squad for making international phone calls. Six people were crushed to death and thirty-four others injured in a stampede as they left the stadium.
On September 2013, Asahi Shimbun reported that nine members of the Unhasu Orchestra, where Kim Jong-un’s wife Ri Sol-ju was a singer before she married, were executed for producing and selling pornographic videos.
On November 3, 2013, according to a JoongAng Ilbo report, at least 80 people have been publicly executed for minor offenses. The executions were said to be carried out simultaneously in Wonsan, Chongjin, Sariwon, Pyongsong and three other North Korean cities for crimes such as watching South Korean movies, distributing pornography or possessing a Bible. According to a witness from Wonsan, 10,000 residents were forced to watch when eight people were shot with a machine-gun at the local Shinpoong stadium.
On December 13, 2013, the North Korean state media announced the execution of Jang Sung-taek, the uncle by marriage of North Korea's leader at the time, Kim Jong-un. The South Korean National Intelligence Service believes that two of his closest aides, Lee Yong-ha and Jang Soo-keel, were already executed in mid-November.
Amnesty International says torture and executions are widespread in political prisons in North Korea. Testimonies describe secret and public executions in North Korean prisons by firing squad or by hanging. The executions are used as a means of deterrence, often accompanied by torture. Prisoners are executed for acts like stealing food, attempting to escape, refusing to abandon religious belief or criticizing the government.