North Korea held a public execution by firing squad to punish a breach of coronavirus rules, insiders in the country say.
A man accused of smuggling across the sealed-off Chinese border was shot dead on November 28 in order to scare people into following the rules, according to Radio Free Asia.
While North Korea officially claims it has never had a case of Covid-19, Kim Jong-un's regime has brought in 'ultra-high-level emergency quarantine measures' and troops have been ordered to shoot trespassers at the Chinese border, sources say.
'They held a public execution by firing squad to threaten residents here in the border area, because there's been a lot of contact with people on the other side of the border, including a lot of smuggling,' one source said.
The North Korean regime led by Kim Jong-un (pictured) has held a public execution to punish a breach of coronavirus rules, insiders in the secretive country say
The person sentenced to death was described as a man in his 50s who was accused of smuggling with Chinese business partners across a border which has been closed for most of 2020.
China is North Korea's biggest trading partner and aid benefactor, but trade between the two has slumped by 75 per cent because of the pandemic.
Fearful that smugglers could bring in the virus, Kim's regime has beefed up its military presence at the border to enforce the restrictions.
Pyongyang has also dispatched special units to check on border guards and make sure they are not involved in smuggling themselves, it is claimed.
Another source said the public execution was typical of the regime's efforts to scare people into submission.
'Whenever the people complain because their livelihoods are affected, the authorities always try to shut them up by threatening them with public executions or by sending them to political prison camps,' they said.
North Korea has maintained that it has not found a single coronavirus case on its soil, while saying it is making all-out efforts to prevent the virus's spread.
A major outbreak could have dire consequences because the North's health care system is chronically under-equipped.
The condemned man was accused of smuggling across the sealed-off border between China and North Korea (pictured, a bridge that links the two countries)
South Korea's spy agency, the NIS, said last week that Kim had ordered a lockdown in Pyongyang and banned fishing at sea in order to keep out the virus.
Intelligence officials said Kim was displaying 'excessive anger' and taking 'irrational measures' over the pandemic, according to a lawmaker who received a briefing.
The spy agency also believes that Pyongyang executed a key official in August for violating rules about goods brought in from abroad, the lawmaker said.
North Korea also made an unsuccessful hacking attempt on at least one South Korean pharmaceutical company that working on a vaccine, the NIS said.
The agency has a mixed record in confirming developments in North Korea, one of the world's most secretive countries.
The pandemic has dealt a heavy blow to North Korea's economy, which is already under punishing US sanctions, but the regime has remained silent on Joe Biden's US election victory last month.
Experts have been debating whether North Korea will resume major missile tests soon to try to get Biden's attention.
The South expects that Kim will hold a military parade ahead of a ruling party congress in January in a show of force close to Biden's inauguration.