Eighty people have been executed in North Korea for watching foreign TV and owning bibles, a South Korean newspaper has claimed.
Seoul’s JoongAng Ilbo daily reports that the killings took place across seven different cities on 3 November.
Although only identifying a "single unidentified" source, the story has gained credence after similar reports were gathered by a news agency run by North Korean defectors.
The executions may have been an attempt to instil fear in the populace
One execution is said to have taken place in a stadium in front of 10,000 people where the victims were machine-gunned.
The source said: "I heard from the residents that they watched in terror as the corpses were riddled by machine-gun fire that they were hard to identify afterwards."
The scale of the executions suggests a concerted effort by Kim Jong-un's notorious regime to stifle dissent.
JoongAng Ilbo notes they took place in areas of recent economic growth and may have been a pre-emptive move.
A spokesman for North Korea Intellectual Solidarity reportedly said, "The regime is obviously afraid of potential changes in people's mind-sets and is pre-emptively trying to scare people off," reports the Independent.
The highly reclusive state is known for its harsh attitude to outside influences.
In a report from 2011 conditions in North Korea were described as some of the worst Amnesty had encountered in five decades of work.
Worryingly, Amnesty says that, far from improving, the situation is getting worse, with shocking images released this year by the charity, revealing the North is expanding the camps where the prisoners are said to be held.
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