The North Korean leadership believes that South Korean goods, or news about the South distributed by smugglers from China, are a direct threat to the regime, experts say. A defector from Chongjin said commandos crack down on any signs of a black market and conduct midnight raids on producers of illegal South Korean DVDs
Public executions are the most drastic scare tactic. They had more or less ceased since the first inter-Korean summit in 2000 started a thaw and the North became wary of international criticism, but in 2007 they started up again.
In May 2008, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il ordered officials to shoot defectors or imprison them for 10 years of hard labor if they were arrested, according to information obtained by South Korean and U.S. intelligence agencies. Previously only those caught attempting to escape directly to South Korea had been punished so severely.
But as of last year they had been declining again, as the North concentrated on strengthening its economy and marshaled all the available manpower into boosting production.