North Korea’s Kim Jong-un is reportedly in the middle of yet another purge, executing six in relation to the restaurant worker defections to South Korea that Pyongyang has alleged were “abductions.”
South Korean news agency Yonhap reports that the family and friends of six government officials were forced to watch their executions in public in May. All the officials had some ties to international operations, which would link them to North Korea’s restaurant chains operating in China.
“North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ordered six officials, including intelligence officials, to be executed publicly on May 5 due to their lack of control over overseas (North Korean) workers,” according to Choi Seong-yong, chairman of the Abductees’ Family Union.
Choi suggests those forced to watch the executions were not only officials with similar responsibilities to those killed and relatives of the slain, but people who have relatives working for the North Korean government internationally. Choi placed the number of people forced to watch at 80 public officials and 100 civilians.
The Daily Mail notes that an estimated 50,000 North Korean citizens are working for the government abroad, most working in “mining, logging, textiles, and construction.” A number of North Koreans work at one of 100 Pyongyang restaurant franchises, which offer traditional Korean fare as well as performances by young North Korean girls of North Korean propaganda songs. Kim Jong-un’s government makes an estimated $10 million a year on these businesses and trusts only the daughters of high-ranking officials with the task of living abroad and sending their salaries home.
It appeared to come as a shock to North Korean officials when 13 restaurant workers in China defected, receiving political asylum in South Korea, in April. Twelve of the workers were female entertainers; one was the restaurant manager.
Choi says the families of defectors were spared but forced to endure rigorous communist brainwashing. “North Korea locked the families of the defectors up and forced them to take ideological education at a training facility in Myohyang Mountain, in the northern part of the communist country,” he told Yonhap.
North Korea refused to acknowledge the high-profile defections, instead referring to them as “abductions” and demanding that South Korea “free” the defectors. “South Korean authorities lured and abducted a group of DPRK employees in broad daylight,” Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency reported. “We sternly denounce the group abduction of the citizens of the DPRK as a hideous crime against its dignity and social system and the life and security of its citizens.”
The news of the executions follows a week in which North Korea has heightened the intensity of its anti-American rhetoric after its declaration of war in mid-July went largely unheeded by American media. At the time, Pyongyang protested to new U.S. sanctions directly targeting Kim Jong-un, not just the government of North Korea, which state-controlled media declared had forced the country “on wartime footing” with the United States. Pyongyang cut its only diplomatic tie with the United States, a small office in New York, on July 11.
Drowned out by coverage of the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, Pyongyang repeated their declaration of war this week. “The Obama administration went so far to have the impudence to challenge the supreme dignity of the DPRK in order to get rid of its unfavorable position during the political and military showdown with the DPRK,” Han Song Ryol, the director-general of U.S. affairs at North Korea’s Foreign Ministry, said this week, asserting that they will be acting with wartime rules toward the United States.
North Korea has yet to specify how its behavior against the United States will change as it has spent the past year threatening nuclear attacks on Washington D.C. and New York City.