03/18/2005, 00.00
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Smuggled film said to show killing of would-be defectors in N Korea

Tokyo (AsiaNews/Agencies) - A firing squad takes aim, then shoots. In the distance, the blurry figures of North Koreans condemned to die for attempting to escape the totalitarian nation slump over, lifeless.

Japan Independent News Net, the media company which obtained the footage, said yesterday that it showed three public executions carried out in North Korea on March 1 and 2. Nippon Television Network broadcast portions of the tape on Wednesday.

It's the first time that a video of public executions has been brought out of North Korea and shown to the outside world," said Hitoshi Takase, president of Japan Independent News Net. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda said Tokyo was concerned about the apparent evidence provided in the video of North Korea's public executions.

South Korean activists have claimed that Pyongyang carries out executions to terrify its citizens into remaining within its borders.

The blurry film, apparently filmed with a hidden camera, appears to show two people being shot in Hoeryong town near the border with China on March 1. The condemned faced the firing squad shortly after a brief trial in which a judge found them guilty of trying to cross into China and smuggle others there.

In both films, three gunmen each fire three shots at a prisoner tied to a pole.

The judge sentenced two others to life imprisonment and gave five others terms of 10 to 15 years in labour and re-education camps.

At another trial and execution session in the same town the following day, one more person was executed and one person was sentenced to 10 years in a labour camp.

News Net said the video was taken out of North Korea by defectors. A Seoul-based group called the Commission to Help North Korean Refugees said last month that North Korea had executed 70 defectors who were captured in China and sent home, to discourage its citizens from fleeing the country.

Nearly 1,900 North Koreans defected to South Korea last year, an increase of almost 50 per cent from 2003. The Commission to Help North Korean Refugees estimates that more than 100,000 North Koreans are hiding in China.
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