Seoul: North Korea this month publicly executed two of its citizens for handling propaganda leaflets floated across the border by South Korean groups, one of the activists said on Monday.
An Army officer who pocketed dollar bills enclosed with the leaflets was shot along with a 45-year-old woman who concealed one of the flyers, said Choi Sung-Yong.
He said the executions were carried out on January 03 at Sariwon, 45 kilometres (27 miles) south of Pyongyang, in front of 500 spectators following a special ideological session on the leaflets.
Choi, citing a source in Sariwon, said that six members of the victims` families had been sent to a camp for political prisoners.
"North Korea apparently carried out the executions to teach a lesson to its people," Choi said.
He said the regime appeared to have tightened ideological control as it grooms the youngest son of leader Kim Jong-Il as eventual successor to his father.
Among those forced to watch the killings were about 50 relations of former South Korean prisoners of war and abductees, he said.
Choi, whose own father was abducted by the North, runs an organisation which has arranged the escape of some former POWs and abductees.
South Korea estimates that about 500 prisoners of war from the 1950-53 conflict were never sent home from the communist North.
It also says 480 South Korean civilians were abducted to the North in the post-war years. The North denies holding any South Koreans against their will.
South Korean activists, including Choi, have floated balloons carrying hundreds of thousands of anti-Pyongyang leaflets, DVDs and one-dollar bills across the heavily fortified frontier.
The money is designed to encourage North Koreans to pick up the flyers despite the risk of severe punishment. The leaflets typically pour scorn on the North`s regime and call for its overthrow.
Pyongyang`s military last September threatened to open fire on South Korean sites used for the leaflet launches unless the Seoul government halts the practice.