A North Korean couple was executed earlier this month for trying to escape the country during the COVID-19 national emergency quarantine, sources in the country told RFA.
The husband and wife, along with their teenage nephew, who are from Ryanggang province near China, tried to cross the border but was caught by North Korean border guards.
They were given no trial and were immediately executed by firing squad, though the boy was able to escape execution because he is 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, who requested anonymity to speak freely, told RFA’s Korean Service 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.
According to the source, the couple that were caught were planning to reunite with a family member once they arrived in 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 said.
The three would-be escapees would have had better chances of making it out alive if not for COVID-19, according to the source.
“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,” the source added.
But the source expressed relief that the authorities spared 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.”
Another resident of Ryanggang who requested anonymity for legal reasons told RFA that the story of the attempted escape has been spreading among the people.
“[They say] that the people who were arrested while trying to escape Hyesan were shot to death. The fact that they were immediately executed for just trying to escape is shocking to most people,” the second source said.
Though North Korea officially claims it has no confirmed COVID-19 cases within its borders, it has admitted internally through a series of lectures to citizens that the virus is spreading in three parts of the country, including the capital Pyongyang. (Source: RFA)