North Korea publicly executes 80 people
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un seen shaking hands with troops in this undated photo - (KCNA/Reuters)

North Korea has publicly executed 80 people across seven cities for watching South Korean television shows, according to inside sources.

An unidentified source "familiar" with North Korean internal affairs told the conservative South Korean daily JoongAng Ilbo that the simultaneous executions took place on 3 November.

If confirmed, these are the first large-scale public executions under Kim Jong-un.

The report said the North Koreans were charged with relatively minor offences such as watching smuggled South Korean shows and pornography. Some of them are believed to have been punished for possessing the Bible in the Communist nation.

The source is reported to have recently visited North Korea.

A witness apparently told the source that North Korean authorities had gathered about 10,000 people including children in a local stadium in Wonsan to watch the execution by firing squad. At least eight people, with their heads covered, were tied to stakes as North Korean forces opened fire at them, according to the report.

"I heard from the residents that they watched in terror as the corpses were so riddled by machine-gun fire that they were hard to identify afterwards," the witness is quoted as saying.

The executions reportedly took place in seven provinces including Kangwon, North Hamgyong, North Hwanghae and South Pyongan. No executions occurred in the capital Pyongyang.

Relatives of the executed people have also been jailed for aiding the accused.

Other Seoul-based websites, including the ones run by North Korean defectors, have not released any information about the executions.

Such executions are not uncommon in North Korea. In the past, Pyongyang was said to have ordered public executions for religious activism and possession of mobile phones.