Last week the Korea Institute for National Unification reported that North Korea had publicly executed at least 1,382 individuals between 2000 and 2014, or more than 90 per year over that time period. According to Amnesty International, China leads the world in state-sponsored murders by a large margin, killing more than 1,000 of its citizens in 2014. Iran (289+), Saudi Arabia (90+), Iraq (61+), and the United States (35) round out the top 5. (AI did not include North Korea in its ranking but estimated that the country killed more than 50 of its citizens in 2014.)
However, if one adjusts for country size and examines executions per capita, North Korea rises to the fore. The period average of 92 executions per year means that North Korea has been killing its citizens at a rate of 3.69 per million, edging out Iran (3.67), and Saudi Arabia (3.61) for the top of the order.
The North’s grip on the number 1 position may be tenuous, however. KINU reports that executions have been trending downward, and supplies a very low estimate of five executions in 2014, less than one-tenth of the AI estimate. If one uses the AI 2014 guesstimate, the DPRK slumps to 2.00 executions per million, trailing not only Iran and Saudi Arabia, but barely ahead of Iraq (1.78). And if one uses that low-ball KINU estimate of five executions for 2014, the country drops precipitously in citizen-killing, falling behind Lebanon (1.50), Kuwait (1.43), South Sudan (0.34), and even Taiwan (0.26)!