Former soldier recounts cruelty as US president prepares for summit with leader Kim Jong-un, where dire human rights record is unlikely to be broached

Lee Cheol cannot remember how many times he was forced to gather with his fellow soldiers at an airfield outside Pyongyang in North Korea and watch as firing squads executed enemies of the state. But one thing he does remember is that these public displays of violence increased under Kim Jong-un.

“I was very traumatised, I couldn’t eat or sleep for days,” Lee says, recalling the first time he was made to watch teams of soldiers unload their AK-47s into the condemned. “I remember the sound of a person being hit by a bullet, it’s very different from the sound of a target, but after seeing it so many times I became numb.”

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