Unification Media Group (UMG): We are here with reporter Yeom Seung Cheol today to discuss cases of human rights violations enabled by the North Korean regime.
Yeom Seung Cheol (Yeom): This story was passed to us from an informant called Mr. Choi (pseudonym) who resides in North Korea’s Hyesan city. Mr. Choi’s testimony provides us with details of the corrupt and abusive behavior of a supervisor (name redacted, referred to only as major for this piece) at Ryanggang Province’s Ministry of People’s Security unit.
According to Mr. Choi’s testimony, the major is using his position to extort bribes in exchange for permitting drug sales to occur under his watch. He is also accused of repeated sexual violence.
UMG: How long has he been accused of these crimes?
Yeom: During North Korea’s Arduous March, a nationwide famine that occurred in the mid-1990s, the majorbegan to track down the buyers and sellers of drugs in order to extort both parties for bribes.
He ended up seizing control of an illegal drug distribution network, promoting sales growth and extracting bribes along the way. He has now expanded his influence beyond the drug trade, guaranteeing drug shipments to Ryanggang Province party members and prosecutors, as well as high-ranking cadres in the Ministry of State Security (MSS).
It is common knowledge in Hyesan that all significant drug dealers have powerful officials behind them. Government officials control the larger and more profitable operations, while those lower in the food chain are kept in line under threat of prosecution.
UMG: Can you provide more details on his crimes?
Yeom: According to Mr. Choi, in January 2016, a resident of Hyesan in his forties was working with a Chinese merchant to smuggle in a large volume of illicit drugs. The major discovered that the individual had earned a lot of money from the operation, and went directly to his house to threaten him with jail time.
But the resident was not easily intimidated. The major takes care of his own people, but ruthlessly cracks down on those who aren’t under his control.
UMG: What ended up happening to the resident?
Yeom: In the end, he was arrested for smuggling and selling drugs. To cover up his interaction with the resident, the major waited 15 days before he took him into custody.
The major personally took over the investigation of the resident and tortured him ruthlessly. It resulted in four broken ribs and two severe head wounds. He only stopped the beatings after the resident disclosed the supplier of the drugs.
The resident also gave up 500 grams of drugs that he had hidden across the border in China.
UMG: What happened to the drugs that the major recovered?
Yeom: 400 grams were given to the state through the relevant channels and the remaining 100 grams were sold to an acquaintance for his personal profit.
These kinds of drugs are selling for about 100-170 RMB (15-25 USD) for a single gram. That means that his haul was a considerable amount of money in North Korea.
UMG: How does the major’s embezzlement go unnoticed? Don’t his seniors have an interest in preventing this kind of corruption?
Yeom: High-ranking cadres in North Korea have the discretion and power to do as they please. They use their own authority to provide cover for themselves and are rarely punished for their actions.
UMG: What other victims have been subjected to the major’s abuses?
Yeom: Two female residents of Hyesan City were also arrested for selling illegal drugs. One woman in her twenties and another in her thirties were caught in the act and interrogated by the major.
According to the informant, the two young ladies were transporting drugs from Hamhung, South Hamyong Province to Hyesan. They ended up dealing with someone in the major’s network, and were caught in a sting trying to move a large shipment of drugs. That’s when they were arrested.
After being apprehended, they were held for an extended period of time and subjected to an investigation. During this time, they were sexually assaulted multiple times in the interrogation room. When they attempted to resist, the major grabbed them by the hair and kicked them in the stomach.
After being subjected to savage beatings and sexual assaults, the women were forced to confess everything they knew. The major said, “If you just played nicely from the beginning, you wouldn’t have had to go through this.”
After a month of being held for interrogation, the women were sentenced to two months of labor training. After a week, they were discharged early because of orders from the major. To this day, he goes into their homes in the evenings to demand sexual favors and forces them to participate in his drug smuggling network.