Several days ago it was revealed that during the mourning period for Kim Jong Il, four public officials from North Hamgyung Province were murdered in what is an unprecedented crime for North Korea.
A source in North Hamgyung Province told Daily NK on January 19, “During the mourning period, one official from the provincial NSA, one from the prosecutor’s office and two from the People’s Safety Agency were murdered in Cheongjin.” The source added, “There was a note found lying next to the body of the executed NSA official which said ‘Punished in the name of the people.’”
North Korean authorities have not released the identities of the victims or any information about the case fearing public disturbances, but authorities are said to be using all resources at their disposal to find the people responsible. The Defense Security Command is helping the other three agencies with the investigation, while a report on the murders has been elevated to the Central Party in Pyongyang.
In December 2010, also in Cheongjin, the retired head of the PSA office in the Sunam district died after being attacked on the street by an unknown assailant. This however is the first time that active serving officers have been slain. The likelihood seems to be that the murders were planned by somebody with a political motive rather than a personal grudge.
The source revealed that bureaucrats in North Hamgyung Province are shocked by the incident. “On the outside they’re furious, saying they’re going to track down the person responsible and torture them, but at the same time they don’t seem to know what to do.”
“The fact that privileged officials were killed right under the government’s noses, and while there were special patrols in place for the mourning period, means that the lower down the hierarchy you look bureaucrats are more anxious,” the source said.
The reaction from citizens who are aware of the incident is mostly positive, with some saying ‘they deserved it’, although such encouragement is tempered by concerns that this case will lead to even more stringent controls on the public. There are even rumors spreading that it may have been perpetrated by members of the military, given the bold nature of the crime and the skills required to carry it out.
The range of potential perpetrators is extraordinarily large, with the NSA, the PSA and the prosecutor’s office all having created their fair share of grudges over the last decade. These agencies have been responsible for carrying out some of the government’s policies of public oppression, using violence to confiscate property while also engaging in corruption, such as accepting bribes.
For the time being North Korean authorities are proceeding under the assumption that it was an act of rebellion against the system instigated with outside help, and are concentrating efforts to find the people responsible. Some harbor suspicions that the murders may be related to continuing border controls and mobile phone signal jamming.
The investigation looks set to be a long-term one though, with the agencies conducting the investigation understood to have no solid leads. Cheongjin is currently cut off from all interaction with the outside world, with nobody able to get in or out of the city.
Meanwhile, the source confirmed a claim made by kidnapping, defector and human rights group CHNK21 president Do Hee Yoon on Radio Free Asia last Thursday that leaflets criticizing Kim Jong Eun were recently scattered in downtown Cheongjin.
“People were surprised to see the leaflets scattered all at once in Sunam, Sujeongcheon and around train lines where a lot of people come and go. There was a similar event in February last year were leaflets were scattered at the front of Cheongjin Medical University, but this is the first time such an event has occurred in multiple places at once.”
However, the source added “Nobody knows yet whether or not the leaflets have any connection to the murders.”