On Thursday, prior to a meeting at the White House with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Donald Trump told reporters that he is now open to a third summit meeting with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un, according to The New York Times, after the second Trump-Kim summit collapsed earlier this year when the two could not come to terms on an agreement to end North Korea's nuclear weapons program.
But even as Trump was suggesting another high-level meeting with Kim, reports out of Asia said that North Korea had resumed carrying out public executions, as a way of "maintaining social order," according to the Radio Free Asia news service.
According to a report by Britain's Mirror newspaper, "tens of thousands" of North Korean citizens were forced by government authorities to watch as two women were executed recently — for fortune-telling.
The executions took place last month in Chongjin, a city of about 600,000 that is the capital of northeast North Korea's North Hamgyong province, according to the RFA report, and were designed to stop local officials from "patronizing fortune tellers and engaging in other 'superstitious' behavior."
Consulting fortune tellers has reportedly become a popular practice in North Korea, even among high-ranking government officials, who consult the fortune tellers before making significant life decisions, or when planning life events such as weddings. But the practice is frowned upon by the Kim regime.
The two women were part of the "Seven Star Group," a circle of fortune tellers who were purported to use two children, ages 3 and 5, as "oracles" who could predict the future by channeling "spirits," according to The Mirror report.
"They pronounced sentences of death and carried out public executions immediately," a "source" told RFA. "Tens of thousands of people from factories, colleges, and housing units from Chongjin were forced to attend the public trial."
The two women were executed by gunfire. A third woman was also convicted of the "superstitious behavior" and sentenced to life in prison, according to the media reports, which said that North Korea had "resumed" the practice of public executions as a method of deterring what the government deems undesirable behavior just this year.
In 2017, a North Korean defector — 26-year-old Hee Yeon Lim, daughter of a top military official — described being forced to watch a brutal, public mass execution while a high school student, according to Britain's Sun newspaper.
According to Hee, she and her classmates were taken out of class to a nearby military academy where they were forced to witness the executions of 11 "musicians" who were accused of making a "pornographic video." The "musicians" were tied to the barrels of anti-aircraft cannons, which were then fired one by one, she recalled.
"The musicians just disappeared each time the guns were fired into them," Hee told the western media. "Their bodies were blown to bits, totally destroyed, blood and bits flying everywhere."