North Korea Today No. 206

No. 206 September 2008

Mass Protest against Control over Commercial Activities at Chungjin
City of Chungjin, “Slow Down on Control until Food Rations Are Available”
City of Hyesan Investigates Buying and Selling of Houses
Public Execution of University Students for Human Trafficking
In North Hamgyong Province, Rumors of a Coming of "one of the toughest investigations of anti-socialist activities by the Central party" Causes Stir

Mass Protest against Control over Commercial Activities at Chungjin
Conflicts surrounding control over commercial activities in the city of Chungjin, North Hamgyung Province, have been rising steadily and have calmed down only recently. Control over the age limit of peddlers was not enforced very strictly because of the lack of food rations. However, toward the end of August, control over commercial activities was tightened causing tension among the residents. A peddler at Soonam Market, Kwon Young-choon (48) says “Some young women without peddler’s license and elderly residents, sixty to seventy years of age, were outside the market area, peddling some merchandise. The head of the Market Management office and his subordinates came out and chased away the peddlers as if they were no better than dogs. Those who did not cooperate were arrested and forced to sign investigative reports. They were then force fingerprinted and received fines ranging from 1,000 to 2,000 won each. I’ve heard that the peddlers had to give bribes of up to three packs of cigarettes to make the Market Management Office employees look the other way.”

On August 24, small teams with three to four security officers conducted intense investigations in the market area in the name of maintaining order. It was inevitable that a fight broke out between these security teams and female peddlers who were struggling to earn a living. In the beginning, the peddlers seemed to be losing, but female peddlers nearby quickly joined forces, and it turned into a big brawl. The word about the fight spread so fast throughout the region that the residents are not reluctant to admit that the fight was the second incident that shook the city of Chungjin since the March 4 incident. The fight brought a public outcry in the area by those female peddlers who did not participate in the fight and those from other markets in the city. This incident also caused anger toward the authorities on the part of the husbands and brothers of the female peddlers. Naturally, this incident has placed the authorities under strain.

City of Chungjin, “Slow Down on Control until Food Rations Are Available”
City party officials of Chungjin immediately reported the afore-mentioned incident to the provincial party headquarters. On August 26, an emergency plenary provincial meeting was convened. At this meeting, the leading secretary and the party chairman were severely criticized. The leading secretary of the city party accepted the criticism of the leading secretary of provincial party. However, he made a suggestion, “City of Chungjin cannot solve the food crisis affecting tens of thousands of residents because of lack of food to distribute. Age limit puts a restraint on the number of peddlers, but many wives are trying to make a living by peddling merchandise. Would there be a way to make an exception to the city of Chungjin by slowing down control until some food gets distributed? ” Even some provincial party officials sided with the city officials, saying “How could people make living under continued control of commercial activities? How could husbands report to work without food rationing? This continuing problem is a heavy burden on everyone.”

However, the provincial party leaders could not agree to the request by city of Chungjin in presence of city party officials from other cities. Provincial party leaders could not make an exception to Chungjin and the central party’s policy does not allow it. They ended the meeting without any conclusion. After the meeting, city of Chungjin issued oral orders to all the district police stations and the market management offices that they relax their control of the commercial activities until food rations become available. Since the oral orders were issued, no female peddler has been further bothered in the market throughout the city of Chungjin.

City of Hyesan Investigates Buying and Selling of Houses

Since August 17, the central party in the city of Hyesan, Ryanggang Province has been on the look out for anti-socialist activities. Officials announced that viewing of foreign publications or video recordings and listening to broadcasts from China will lead to punishment of exile and that distribution of any of the above-mentioned items will result in up to ten years in re-education facilities. Illegal activities by trading companies and buying and selling of houses are all under intense investigation. As a consequence of these investigations, the chief prosecutor of city of Hyesan has been relieved from his job. The chief prosecutor and the chief of construction unit of Civil Engineering Bureau collaborated in building a house. The construction unit chief provided all the necessary laborers and the chief prosecutor guaranteed supply of all the material for five-story apartments. They did not receive any approval from the city of Hyesan People’s Assembly in transferring the finished house to other businessmen. In this illegal activity, money changed hands. Some one complained to the Central Party and these two individuals are under investigation after being relieved of their jobs.

Public Execution of University Students for Human Trafficking
Since the Central Party’s investigations against anti-socialist activities began, a public trial was held against the seven caught for human trafficking at Hyesan stadium. Four among those seven were sentenced to thirteen years in re-education center and three were executed on the spot. All those executed happened to be students of Hyesan University of Industry. These students tried to make money for tuition and suspended attending school before going into the human trafficking business. Their relatives and friends were witnesses to their executions. They could not stop weeping. Some collapsed and had to be taken to the hospital.

In North Hamgyong Province, Rumors of a Coming of "one of the toughest investigations of anti-socialist activities by the Central party" Causes Stir
The Central party's organization and guidance department has started an investigation of anti-social activities in Hoeryong City and Chungjin City, Hamgyong Province in September. And because it is rumored to be the toughest investigation ever put on by the party, tension is palpable among the residents. They will crack down on those whose family members have escaped to China (cross-borders) or to South Korea. Family members of the escapees will be forced to move to restricted areas. The Province official stated that, "They will root out those who are connected with escapees to South Korea." A thorough investigation in the border area is supposedly expected.

One official of the central party stressed that, "We should come up with better and diverse measures, so that we can continue to inspect the people efficiently." In order to do so, they organized a tentative investigative team with excellent and capable inspectors. However, Kim Choon-geun (39) casually comments that, "The investigation has been an issue for a long time. They conduct it annually. No matter how harsh it is, someone with money can avoid any inspection." He did not seem to take it seriously.

Each Police Station Will Be In Charge of the Railway Station's Order

National Defense Committee stated that inspection teams would not be run by railway stations any longer. Instead, the police stations will be in charge of maintaining each railway station's public order. While the railway stations owned the inspection teams, they became corrupt and resulted in chaotic railway stations. Given the circumstances, each police department will take responsibility of keeping the public peace at their assigned railway stations.

The Corn Military Burglars Likely Sentenced To Be Re-educated in Pyonggang County
On August 11, the police station in Pyonggang County, Kangwon Province arrested military personnel who attempted to steal corn from local farms, beating security guards beaten in the attempt. The military officer in charge visited the police station and asked to let them off this case. But the police officers took a firm stand on this robbery case. As the military personnel's crime has been continued, police are ordered to crack down on burglary. This case is not a simple theft. Violence was also involved. The robbers are expected to be punished severely for the violence. The police will treat the military criminal as same as any public criminal. They are likely to be sentenced to some re-education centers. To it’s shame, the Pyonggang County has a higher burglary rate than many other counties, and as a result officials are determined to clamp down on military personnel thefts.

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