A Christian woman accused of distributing the Bible, a book banned in communist North Korea, was publicly executed last month for the crime, South Korean activists claim.
The 33-year-old mother of three, Ri Hyon Ok, also was accused of spying for South Korea and the United States, and of organizing dissidents, a rights group said in Seoul, citing documents obtained from the North. Ri reportedly was executed in the northwestern city of Ryongchon — near the border with China.
The Investigative Commission on Crime Against Humanity report also said her husband, children and parents were sent to a political prison the day after her June 16 execution.
The report cited indications that the North Korean government had taken "new steps" to stop the clandestine spread of Christianity, particularly in areas near the border with China, including infiltrating underground churches and setting up fake prayer meetings as a trap for Christian converts.
The North Korean regime severely restricts religious observance, with the cult of personality created by national founder Kim Il Sung and enjoyed by current leader Kim Jong Il serving as a virtual state religion. Those who violate religious restrictions are often accused of crimes such as spying or anti-government activities.
Still, more than 30,000 North Koreans are believed to practice Christianity in hiding — at great personal risk, defectors and activists say.