A couple in their 50's was executed by the firing squad in North Korea after they were caught while trying to flee the hermit kingdom in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. A 14-year-old boy, accompanying the couple, was spared because of his age. The incident reportedly took place in Hyensan, Ryanggang province, earlier this month.
Despite the pandemic infecting more than 5.8 million people globally and killing nearly 360,000, North Korea claims to be free of the fatal virus.
Couple Was Caught While Trying to Escape to South Korea
The couple was trying to escape to neighboring South Korea, along with their 14-year-old nephew. Radio Free Asia stated that North Korea has sealed its borders since January following a spate of coronavirus cases in South Korea. It is reported that the husband and wife were given no trial and were immediately executed by firing squad.
"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. They were arrested for attempting to escape [across] the border, which is now heavily controlled due to the national emergency quarantine against the coronavirus," a resident of Ryanggang told the outlet on the condition of anonymity.
Adding that the couple was trying to reunite with a family member, who had previously escaped to the neighboring nation, the source said: "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 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," the source said.
Victims Were Facing Financial Crisis
The news of the couple's death spread in the neighboring areas through word of mouth. Stating that it was a risky attempt by the slain couple, 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."
Another source from Ryanggang stated that the news of sudden execution has left many people shocked. "The couple had been taking care of their nephew who was left behind. They were suffering from difficulties in their business due to the coronavirus," it added.
Expressing anger over the executions, the source said that there is nothing wrong with trying to escape from North Korea, especially when it is so hard to make ends meet due to the coronavirus crisis.