North Korea publicly executed close to 1,400 citizens since 2000, according to a South Korean government-run institute.
The Korea Institute for National Unification released its annual white paper on the North’s human rights conditions Wednesday.
The research institute estimated that 1,382 North Koreans were publicly executed between 2000 and 2014. The figure is based on extensive interviews with between 200 and 250 defectors from the North each year from 2008 to 2014.
According to the white paper, the number peaked in 2008, with 161 executions. The figure has been decreasing dramatically since 2012, to dozens a year.
Human rights experts say the actual count could be higher, noting that the estimate is based on limited witness accounts or secondhand information.
The white paper contradicts the North’s claim that executions are carried out rarely. In January, in a report submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Council, the North said executions happen on rare occasions.
Pyongyang has offered any immediate response to the new South Korean allegations.
The Korea Institute for National Unification has been publishing a white paper on the human rights situation in the communist country since 1996 in English and Korean.
Jee Abbey Lee contributed to this report, which was produced in collaboration with VOA's Korean Service.