The DPRK Central Court has sentenced two reporters and the chairmen of two South Korean newspapers to “capital punishment” for reporting on the release of a newly translated book about North Korea, the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Thursday.
A spokesperson for the Central Court of the DPRK condemned the Chosun Ilbo and the Dong-A Ilbo for reporting on the book “North Korea Confidential: Private Markets, Fashion Trends, Prison Camps, Dissenters and Defectors,” a Korean language version of which was published in mid-August.
“The puppet conservative newspapers ‘Dong-A Ilbo’ and ‘Chosun Ilbo’ recently committed hideous crime of seriously insulting the dignity of the DPRK by using dishonest contents carried by a propaganda book ‘North Korea Confidential’,” the KCNA quoted the spokesperson as having said.
“The Central Court of the DPRK declares that the Dong-A Ilbo journalist Son Hyo Rim and Director General Kim Jae Ho and Chosun Ilbo journalist Yang Ji Ho and Director General Pang Sang Hun will be sentenced to capital punishment under the DPRK Criminal Code,” it added.
The court said it has “seriously warned” the outlets “will be made to pay a high price” for the work.
“Now they have reached the state of slandering and insulting even the inviolable name of our country and its national emblem.”
The title of the Korean version of the book translates to “Capitalist Republic of Korea” and a design on its cover replaces the red star in the DPRK national emblem with a U.S. dollar mark.
“Article 60 of the DPRK Criminal Code stipulates that those who insulted the dignity of the DPRK from the anti-state purpose shall be sentenced even to maximum punishment including death, depending on the severity of the perpetration,” KCNA said in an English-language version of the article.
The North Korean outlet said authors James Pearson and Daniel Tudor had written a “propaganda book” based on the “ludicrous statements of the riff-raffs including rubbish defectors two years ago.”
KCNA criticized the book for its “sophistries which slandered atrociously, distorted and fabricated the DPRK reality saying ‘the lives of the North Koreans are 100% capitalist’.”
The book was released in English in 2015 by Tuttle, a Vermont, U.S.-based publisher which specializes in works on Asia.
Other, more left-leaning South Korean outlets, including the Hankyoreh, the Hankook Ilbo, and the Kyunghyang Shinmun also covered the book’s release, but are not mentioned in the North Korean statement.
The North said the Chosun Ilbo and the Dong-A Ilbo made “all kinds of abusive languages blindly” in reporting on the book.
The DPRK court appears to have taken issue with several quotes from the book cited by the Dong-A Ilbo, including: “North Korea is a country where the power of money is stronger than the capitalist country”, “young people without mobile phone are treated as ‘loser’ in Pyongyang,” and “a person with a lot of money can marry a person of high status at any time.”
The North said the “criminals… hold no right to appeal,” saying that punishment “will be carried out any moment and at any place without going through any additional procedures.”
“We will track down to the end those who masterminded and manipulated hideous provocations of slandering and insulting the dignity of the DPRK and mete out death to them.”
South Korea’s Ministry of Unification (MOU) on Thursday said that Seoul “strongly condemned” the North’s “preposterous threats.”
“The menace to normal reporting activities of journalists is a serious threat to freedom of the press and an act of intervening in domestic affairs,” the MOU said in a spokesperson’s statement. “…it does not help in developing the inter-Korean relations that should be based on respect for the other side.”
“[We] gravely warn North Korea to immediately stop the threats to our people.”
Thursday’s statement is not the first time in recent months that a North Korean judicial body has sentenced a South Korean citizen to death in absentia.
In June, the Ministry of People’s Security and the Central Public Prosecutors Office announced it would “impose [the] death penalty” on former President Park Geun-hye and former director of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) Lee Byung-ho.
In a statement carried by KCNA, the two institutions called on the government of South Korea to hand over the two former officials so their sentence may be carried out.
The ruling was a response to what North Korea claimed was a failed U.S.-ROK assassination plot against current leader Kim Jong Un in April, which it alleged was planned by Park and Lee.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: Flickr user stephan
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