Unification Media Group (UMG): Human rights violations continue to increase in North Korea, as the regime seeks to maintain its authority. This series of reports aims to expose these systematic human rights violations as shared by the victims themselves. Today Reporter Yeom Seung Cheol returns to discuss repeated accusations against a police captain in Chongjin.
YSC: I was recently told of an incident in the Pohang district of Chongjin involving a young police captain in his 30s. The captain (name redacted), is alleged to have committed a range of abuses, including violent assault, rape, and extortion of citizens, all using his power and position as a police captain.
UMG: Can you give us some background on the captain and his reputation?
YSC: He began his career as the head of the Preliminary Examination Office in Hoeryong (North Hamgyong Province). The office falls under the Ministry of People’s Security’s Inspection Department. There he became skilled in extracting bribes from people and forcing females to perform sexual favors in exchange for covering up incidents.
The captain, the eldest son of common laborers, left for his military service in the early 2000s and then attended a political university. His mother-in-law was working for a foreign currency-earning company and used her status to help him enter the Inspection Department, where he eventually became head of the unit.
As the head of the department, he almost exclusively took on cases involving women that caught his eye. He and his wife divorced around this time. The source explained that he then ended up marrying a woman from one of his cases and was later dispatched to the Pohang Ministry of People’s Security (MPS) unit in Chongjin.
UMG: What are the details of the incidents involving ?
YSC: According to the source, this past June, the captain confronted a 30-year-old methamphetamine dealer named Jo. He apparently pursued Jo into his home and threatened to blackmail him, asking, “Do you know what happens to people who sell drugs, an action that goes against the teachings of the Marshal (Kim Jong Un)? Don’t you know that there is a certain way of doing this? You have to be more discreet! I can show you how.” The captain then demanded a bribe of 5,000 yuan (about 850,000 KRW) from the man.
UMG: It seems the captain was very calculated in his actions.
YSC: Yes. The dealer, Mr. Jo, was leading a very difficult life as the head of a household of a family of 7, with both parents disabled. Jo apparently had only recently decided to go into the business of selling drugs so that he could take care of his family and pay for his parents’ treatment. The captain then approached Jo before he had even sold any drugs.
Jo pleaded with the captain, explaining that there was no way he could pay 5,000 yuan considering his family’s situation. The captain then openly threatened the man, saying, “If you are taken in for dealing drugs, you will go to prison for the rest of your life. Once I take you in, not even 50,000 yuan will get you out of it. Are you willing to give up your life just to save a little money?”
Jo was forced to give in to the Captain’s demands in the end. The source explained that the captain is skillful in this respect, using his power and threatening to turn small crimes into serious crimes and vice versa, all hinging upon people’s cooperation in providing money or favors.
UMG: What other accusations have been leveled at the captain?
There are reports of him repeatedly raping a young woman in her 20s who was working the markets with her father, just trying to survive. These incidents allegedly began occurring in the Subuk-2 neighborhood of Pohang. He picked the girl up merely for being a young woman working as a merchant, calling it suspicious behavior for someone who should have a proper job. He took her in for interrogation, but then threatened her and forced her to perform sexual acts on him.
He took advantage of the girl’s naivety and inexperience, making her believe that she would be in serious trouble for such crimes as ‘being unemployed’ and ‘being a young female merchant’. He broke her down and sexually abused her.
UMG: How does the justify his actions under the law?
YSC: After the state distribution collapsed in the mid-90s, regular jobs where people could make a living nearly all disappeared. Many people turned to the markets as their new source of income, so the sight of young female merchants is quite common these days. In general, merchants are not hassled merely for conducting business anymore, and if they are, it would at most result in a half-day interrogation and nothing more.
But in this case, the captain really zeroed in his focus on this kind of ‘crime’. The source said that he “targeted young female merchants for capitalist activities that threaten the nation.” He summoned this young female merchant every week for interrogation, whereupon he would rape and assault her each time.
It unfortunately did not end there for the girl. The captain told her, “If it weren’t for me, you would have already been in a disciplinary labor camp for 6 months now. I’ll take care of you, just continue on with your work in the market.” He would even go to her home in the evening and sexually assault her there as well.
UMG: And he was openly doing this even as the girl worked together in the market alongside her father?
Yes, it’s a truly horrendous situation. But we have come to know that this is the norm in North Korean society, where the authorities brandish their authority to oppress and persecute the people. Fearing retaliation from local officials, everyone privy to the situation chooses to stay quiet, and the young girl continues to have no options in stopping the captain from his frequent abuse. This is North Korea today.