North Korea trade units have received a message as a result of the Internal Meeting내부회의 to consider direct trade with South Korea starting in 2008. Under the current policy, any trade with South Korea must be done through the mediation of China. However, as the current system is seen to benefit only China, a new policy of direct trade with South Korea under the relevant department’s supervision is to be considered. As soon as the official announcement is made, anyone who receives permission from a superior unit will be able to trade directly with South Korea under the supervision of the concerned department and National Economic Cooperation Federation 민족경제협력련합회(민경련).
On the Announcement of “the Year of Freedom from Human Trafficking”
The Central Party’s Organization and Guidance Department중앙당조직부 sent a instruction document to designate this year as “the Year of Freedom from Human Trafficking” to the national border areas on January 5th, 2008. It also announced that a severe punishment will be imposed on any case of human trafficking starting in 2008: anyone involved in human trafficking will be executed.
Directive to Root Out the “Ice”
As soon as the new year begins, the Central Party issued an order to empower the relevant authorities to root out the sale and production of the “Ice” 얼음(a kind of amphetamine) and make people aware of the danger of “Ice”. Accordingly, each local Police Station보안서is supposed to reinforce the control by organizing Local “Ice” Investigation Patrol지역빙두그루빠 comprised of experts. At the national border area where the “Ice” smuggling and consumption is widespread, the Anti-Socialist Conscience Investigation Patrol(“ASCIP”) 비사회주의그루빠 of the Central Party will come and crack down on those involved in the “Ice” sales. Because of the strong will of North Korean Authorities to root out the Ice, not only ordinary citizens, but also the local Security agents 보위부원 and local Police officers보안원 are all afraid of the new year’s directive from the Central Party. Allegedly, there are quite a lot of local Security agents and Police officers involved in the consumption or sale of the “Ice.”
In Hamheung, Ice Smugglers Executed
On December 22nd of last year, 2007, two “Ice” smugglers were publicly executed and two others were executed in private in Hamheung함흥. The two people who were privately executed were a couple and worked as directive officers 지도원 of Hamheung City Police Station. The court decided not to execute the couple publicly afraid that the public would become even more distrustful of Police officers who would need to continue carrying out the “Ice” inspection.
In Shinuiju, Police Officers Executed For “Ice” Smuggling
In Shinuiju신의주, five out of six former city police officers who were previously caught during the inspection of the Anti-Socialist Conscience Investigation Patrol (“ASCIP”) were dismissed from their positions and one got his business suspended. They were charged with smuggling 2kg of “Ice”, 8 MT of bronze and suspicion of conspiring with smugglers. The authority claimed that the five former police officers knew that most of the bronze were taken from the power lines, however instead of making arrests, the officers conspired with the smugglers and eventually made personal profits off of it.
Manager of Soonam Market in Chungjin Tried Publicly
On December 28th 2007, the manager 관리소장 of Soonam Market수남시장 in Chungjin청진 was publicly tried for accumulating wealth illegally. As a result, he was sentenced to 10 years in a reeducation center. He was arrested by the Province Police officers of North Hamgyung Province함경북도 and his house searched. The authorities discovered a suitcase containing Euros and U.S dollars underneath the concrete flooring of the entrance to his house. The average daily income of the market is about 7 million won, and the manager embezzled around 500,000 won of that money each day. It was found that the majority of important officials in the Provincial and City Party and the members of People’s Assembly 인민위원회 have been receiving money from the manager. The Chungjin City Police had previously arrested the manager on the evidence of wrongdoing but was forced to drop the case because of the pressure from high regional officials. This time, however, investigators from the central government came down with support from the province police department and moved the suspect to Kyungsung County경성군 and interrogated him there. As the result, the regional officials with personal relationships to the suspect had no opportunity to exercise their influence on his behalf.
It was found that the former assistant manager’s persistence in reporting the market manager’s wrongdoings led to the latter’s eventual arrest and conviction. The former assistant manager부소장 had a falling out with the manager and was even kicked out of the market management office. This led to the assistant manager to reporting his former boss’ corruption to the central party. The central party instructed the regional office to investigate and report on these suspicions, but the regional party had given the manager a clean bill of health. However, the former assistant manager sent a report again, and this time, the central party investigators came down directly and handled the investigation themselves, resulting in the arrest and conviction. After the sentence was given there was a general sentiment that the sentence was too light for misappropriating 500,000 won everyday for 6 years.
Woman Who Threatened to Escape to South Korea to Hold a Press Conference Sentenced to Death.
At the end of last year there was a public trial in Onsung County온성군, North Hamgyung Province of a 36-year old woman who had escaped to China but was forcibly repatriated. She had made a living by selling shoes but was no longer able to do so because of the new age restrictions on market trading, leading her to decide to escape North Korea with another 41-year old woman. Before she escaped, she spoke openly in front of other peddlers in the market, “Since they won’t let us make a living by selling, it’s the same as killing us. I would rather go to South Korea and live freely. I will hold a press conference when I go there.” As the word of this reached the Provincial Security Agency Office of North Hamgyung Province, they issued an order to arrest her at all cost. A task force team consisting of Security agents보위부원 was dispatched to China to make an emergency arrest. The 36-year old was captured but a 41-year old woman who had crossed over to China with her managed to escape. She was sentenced to execution by shooting in the public trial공개재판 that followed. At the same time, the North Korea authorities has issued a directive that, in 2008, all escapees will be captured and returned, even if they have to send arrest teams abroad.
From the New Year, Busy Collecting Farm-yard Manure
From the start of the New Year, the people of Sinuiju have been bustling around to transport farmyard manure퇴비to agricultural districts. Everyday residents need to load the manure into their handcarts손수레and take it directly to the farms themselves. It is mandatory for every individual to commit 2 MT of compost. Some wealthy residents who cannot commit this much farmyard manure would purchase and pay the manure. The price of manure has already been set to 15,000 won per MT. Even the rich complain about this situation, “Where can you find that much manure around here? We have difficulties maintaining our everyday lives feeding our children, but still have to choose to pay money for the manure. They say the New Year begins with hope, but for us it only means more suffer to endure ahead of us.”
Hoeryung City회령시does not seem to be much different from Shinuiju. In Hoeryung, laborers of Enterprises기업소, members of Democratic Women’s Union (DWU) 녀맹, and even students were all called out to make more manure. The amount of manure that each household should collect for the government is calculated to be about 2 MT at the minimum. Residents are crying out that the goal set by the government is too high and unrealistic for them to achieve. They say that it usually takes more than one Neighborhood Unit인민반 to make up 2MT of manure. Consequently, most families choose to pay instead, which cost 5,000 won per person, however it is still a big burden for most households.
Collecting Farmyard Manure First Rather Than Going to School
As soon as the New Year begins, most students from elementary school to high school have devoted their time in collecting farmyard manure. Some students convince their mothers to buy the manure instead so that so they don’t have to collect manure themselves. Since it ‘s difficult for most kids to make up the mandatory quota only with human excrement인분, kids, like adults, often time mix the excrement with soil, rice straw짚, grass, and other material to increase the amount to match the quota. They then need to dry the excrement to make manure. The dust, dirt and smell produces a hacking cough with which they work. Because they work very hard to make manure, it is even hard to recognize them as students; they are more like laborers. They hardly have energy to bring the hard-won manure to their schools in the morning. The parents watching their children working in the field would feel all devastated and resentful of the situation of being poor and can’t save their children from tough labor.
Sentenced to Death for Circulating Illegal Videos
Onsung county온성군 had conducted a major crackdown on crimes such as border crossing 도강자, smuggling illegal films불순록화물 and “Ice” until December 22nd 2007. On 26th of December 2007, a public trial g공개재판 was held in the general residents’ meeting총화 on the playground of Onsung Machinery Vocational School온성기계전문학교.
59-year- old Mr. Jeon, a farmer from Kosung farm고성농장 located in Onsung county, was arrested on the spot for trafficking forbidden adult films to people crossing the border and later sentenced to death in the trial. Mr. Jeon’s seven other partners were also arrested and ordered for re-education교화형 . A directive officer of Sarocheung사로청 (Socialist Working Youth League: SWYL) was arrested with a high school teacher on a charge of copying and distributing about 80 CD-ROMS of South Korea movies. Both were sentenced to death in public trial.
Meanwhile, Mr. Oh, a resident of Ryongnamri룡남리 in Onsung county, was detected by the Security Agency보위부 for manufacturing and selling illegal films. The Agency put him on the wanted list and distributed his photographs to all the Neighborhood Units for immediate capture. All together 18 people received trials on the same day and 4 people were sentenced to death, 6 people were sentenced to life in prison, and the rest were sentenced to be re-education. Due to government’s recent concern over raising crime rate in Onsung county, it is also believed that the18 people received more harsh sentences than in past. Some people in the audience appeared to be horrified and trembled with fear during the trial.
Punished for Making and Selling a Home Video
Ms. Lee in Sinuiju was sentenced to be re-educated on a charge of making home videos and selling them. She was a fairly wealthy person and invited two actors from Pyongyang평양 in order to celebrate her husband’s birthday. The actors played jokes and performances at the birthday party.
The content of the performance was composed based on the following episode: An apartment building was the background of the performance. The head of Neighborhood Unit인민반장 called all the Unit members to mobilize a program but no one came out. As a ruse, the head decided to play a merchant and knocked on the door of each unit, saying “Buy glutinous rice cake찹쌀떡. Exchange rice cakes even with rotten corns, one to one”. The Unit members that pretended not to be in home to avoid the head’s calling opened the door and eventually came out. The performance ended with the head successfully rooting out all the Unit members.
Ms. Lee told the actors that the film was just for celebrating birthday and was shot from live as it was being enacted. After the performance she gave $150 per actor as a token of her gratitude. The couple copied the home video film in CD-ROM format and sold them to dealers. The film gained in popularity, was very profitable and eventually was detected by the Party. The actors who were cast involuntarily were sent to the mine as “Revolutionization” 혁명화. The original copy and all the other copies were recalled. The couple were ordered to be re-educated. The viewers liked film because of its realism but the Party has registered the film as forbidden and has recalled the copies from house to house. However, there are too many circulated copies that some still remain afloat despite the Party’s efforts.
The Increasing Crime Rate Causes Staff Shortages in Prejudication
As the crimes rate in the national border areas increas, Local Police Stations are experiencing staff shortages. In the case of Hoeryung City, the number of reported crimes is too high for the prejudication예심 to handle; therefore, the city has brought in extra prejudication officers예심원 from other cities and counties. The city has started to hire extra prejudication officers from other cities since last November. Those officers even had to cut short their New Year holidays to deal with the case load. Despite the City’s hard efforts, the excessively high number of criminals is so overwhelming that the authority could not set any realistic targets to deal with them.
In the meantime, families of detainees have to bribe officials, such as prison guards계호원 (간수) , prejudication officers or even friends of their acquaintances working at a police station, in order to send some food to their family members in Interrogation facility구류장. The longer time the prejudication takes, the greater is the burden families face in paying bribes. In desperation, families implore the authorities to send them to the Reeducation Center교화소 to be with their family members.
The Entire Corps Inspected Because Of A Soldier Who Cut Off His Finger
A soldier in North Hamgyung Province cut off his finger to be discharged from the military service on December 2nd. Most soldiers in the troop suffered from malnutrition and held onto the hope of returning home alive even if unhealthy. Under such circumstances, the incident was regarded as an important one, and the case was filed to the corps headquarters군단. The company commander중대장 and the Political directive officer정치지도원were summoned to the corps headquarters and the entire troop was inspected on December 8th. After the inspection, the Political directive officer and the Sergeant Major사관장 of the company중대 were dishonorably discharged, and the platoon leader 소대장 and the assistant platoon leader부소대장 were demoted. The Corps headquarters also asserted that the fact that a soldier tried to escape from his military duty by cutting his own finger clearly indicates failure of leadership and training of soldiers in understating country’s political ideology in the company, therefore the political directive officers should be fully responsible for this incident.
According to the explanations of the Corps inspectors, the soldiers in the troop were mobilized to do dry-field farming rather than military service. According to the soldiers, the troops quota for cooked rice was increased temporarily and bean-curd dregs콩비지 was provided only during the inspection season. Soldiers were ordered to answer inspectors’ questions that they ate an average of 200g of cooked rice with salted radish염장무 , pickled pepper고추절임 and other side dishes at every meal and bean-curd dregs once a week. Even though the soldiers answered in the way that they were ordered, in fact, cooked rice was barely filled in their rice bowls and salted radish usually ran out easily so that they had no choice but to eat the rice with the residual water of the salted radish.
 Revolutionization혁명화: a type of punishment banishing those who commit errors to mines or farms for a set period of time, where they undergo hard labor and ideological reeducation.
Good Friends: Center for Peace, Human Rights and Refugees