A 19-year-old high school student arrested for the murder of another student four months ago has been released early, allegedly for health reasons. Sources indicate that his early release was possible due to his powerful connections, brewing discontent among locals regarding the pervasive injustice in North Korean society.
Daily NK’s sources allege that the student received a light sentence following consistent pressure on the authorities by his influential family. In Ryanggang Province, the case, referred to as the “Song Ju incident”(named after the student), is being widely discussed among the locals.
“At the end of October last year, Song Ju, a third-year student at Kim Jong Suk Senior High School, stabbed his classmate to death following a quarrel over a female. He was sentenced to one year’s detention at a re-education camp,” a source in Ryanggang Province told Daily NK on March 27.
“However, he was released earlier this month, after just four months in the camp. People are saying that someone must have pulled strings behind the scenes.”
The student is said to belong to a well-known and powerful family in Kim Jong Suk County, Ryanggang Province. His father is a director of the county forest management center, while his mother is head of a district office with influence over broad issues in the region. Using their positions, both parents have reportedly bribed law enforcement agencies, including the provincial Ministry of State Security unit, and applied pressure to shorten their son’s prison term.
In addition, the student’s brother-in-law, who works for the anti-espionage unit of the Sinpa Ministry of State Security, reportedly played a decisive role in shortening his term. Song Ju was issued with a fake medical certificate granting eligibility for sick bail, as well as the shortening of his sentence.
“The student was formerly sentenced to one year at the camp during the preliminary trial, but the term was reduced to six months by the court. In addition, he received a medical certificate in January stating that he has a serious illness, permitting him to transfer to a hospital for two months before eventually being released four months after sentencing,” the source explained.
“The student even attended his graduation ceremony, which was held in the middle of March. Most people who are privy to the situation are critical of the hypocrisy of the student’s brother-in-law because he is always an ardent advocate of law and principles when extorting money from residents, but when it comes to his own family, he resorts to illegal methods.”
An additional source also reported that the family not only used their influence to reduce the length of the term but also tried to cover up the murder itself by bribing the victim’s family. The victim’s family was reportedly offered a house in exchange for covering up the case, using the family’s poor livelihood conditions as a source of leverage.
“Song Ju’s parents offered the victim’s family a house (worth around 20,000 RMB), which was owned by their daughter, in exchange for letting the case be handled silently,” she said.
“People without money and power have enormous difficulties in obtaining justice even in cases of murder. This case proves the reality that the law here sides with money and power.”