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North Koreans routinely witness fatalities during military service, survey says

Men in North Korea are universally conscripted into the military. Former soldiers said in a South Korean survey they witnessed death, including public executions, during military service. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI
Men in North Korea are universally conscripted into the military. Former soldiers said in a South Korean survey they witnessed death, including public executions, during military service. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

March 30 (UPI) -- One in four North Korean defectors in a South Korean survey said they have witnessed a public execution, and most said they have witnessed a fatal accident.

The Center for Military Human Rights Korea in the South held a discussion Tuesday in Seoul on the results of a survey conducted from July 2019 to June 2020. The study indicates North Koreans are exposed to fatal accidents on a regular basis, News 1 reported.

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The survey of 30 defectors with prior North Korean military experience indicates 90% of the group, or 27 people, have witnessed the death of a colleague due to an "accident." Sixteen of the cases took place at construction sites, while the remaining deaths occurred during military training, corporal punishment or during the use of firearms.

Eight of the 30 people surveyed said they had directly witnessed a public execution in the military. Most of the executions took place in the 1990s and 2000s, the report said.

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Lee Ki-chan, an independent South Korean researcher, said public executions taking place in the North Korean military are mostly designed to penalize offenders who commit "crimes" against the central leadership or the Workers' Party.

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Men in North Korea are universally conscripted into the military, serving 10 years. Women who serve in the military on a selective basis serve for seven years, but the South Korean research showed that soldiers are routinely denied vacation, the report said.

The traumatic experiences of North Korean defectors could be affecting their mental health long after they flee the country.

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Thousands of defectors in the South receive treatment for depression, panic disorders and other health problems, according to South Korean lawmaker Ji Seong-ho in February, according to Yonhap.

"North Korean defectors suffered enormous stress under the North Korean regime and in the defection process, and also struggle with social and cultural differences in the resettlement process," Ji said last month. "There needs to be support for their mental stability and social adjustment by building trauma centers for North Korean defectors, among other things."

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