North Korea executes couple after they tried to 'escape across border' amid lockdown to reunite with relative

Sources told RFA Korean Service that the couple, hailing from Ryanggang province near China, was allegedly caught attempting to escape with their teenaged nephew across the border, which has reportedly been shut down since January.


                            North Korea executes couple after they tried to 'escape across border' amid lockdown to reunite with relative
(Getty Images)

North Korean officials executed a husband and wife earlier this month for trying to flee the country during the coronavirus pandemic. Sources told RFA Korean Service that the couple, hailing from Ryanggang province near China, was allegedly caught attempting to escape with their teenaged nephew across the border, which has reportedly been shut down since January. According to the outlet, the couple was given no trial but immediately executed by a firing squad. However, the boy was let go because he was a minor. “Earlier this month I heard from an acquaintance in the provincial security department that a family who tried to escape the country was shot to death,” a resident of Ryanggang told RFA on condition of anonymity last week.

“They were arrested for attempting to escape [across] the border, which is now heavily controlled due to the national emergency quarantine against the coronavirus,” the source said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks after watching the gymnastic and artistic performance at the May Day Stadium on September 19, 2018, in Pyongyang, North Korea. (Getty Images)

The couple was allegedly planning to reunite with a family member who had previously crossed over to the South. “It was a couple in their 50s and a 14-year-old student. The boy is the son of the wife’s younger brother, who had previously escaped to the South. They were caught by border guards as they were trying to escape together,” the source explained. “The couple were tortured by the provincial security department into confessing that they tried to escape with their nephew after being contacted by her brother in South Korea."

“The boy’s father, who escaped to South Korea, had asked his sister to bring his son to him,” they added.

According to the source, the three potential escapees would have had better chances of making it if it weren't for the COVID-19 situation. “The attempt to escape at a time like this when border security is so tight due to emergency quarantine measures was an extremely dangerous and risky act,” the source said. “The supreme leadership has ordered that those who attempt to flee the country during the emergency period must be sternly punished. There’s no way they could have avoided the firing squad because they attempted to defect to South Korea."

Nonetheless, the source expressed relief that the authorities chose to spare the life of the teenager.

“Fortunately the child arrested with the couple was able to avoid execution because he is a minor,” said the source. “However, the couple was executed by firing squad, not open to the public, after being charged with treason for trying to cross the border and go to South Korea.”

A North Korean soldier guards on the Yalu river north of the border city of Sinuiju, North Korea across from Dandong, Liaoning province, northern China on May 24, 2017, in Dandong, China. (Getty Images)

Another resident of Ryanggang told RFA on condition of anonymity that the ruthless manner in which the couple was executed has angered the public.

“They were only trying to escape with their young nephew to find a way to live. They were shot dead before they were even able to take a single step into the Yalu River,” the second source stated, referring to a  river that forms part of North Korea's border with China.

“As people hear this shocking news, they are expressing their anger at the authorities, saying there’s nothing wrong with trying to escape from North Korea, especially when it is so hard to make ends meet due to the coronavirus crisis," they added.

While North Korea claims it has no confirmed COVID-19 cases within the country, it has reportedly told citizens in a series of internal lectures that the deadly pathogen is rapidly spreading in three parts of the country, including capital Pyongyang.

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