The North Korean authorities have reportedly begun pilot surveys in anticipation of a planned national census in October next year.
A source in Pyongyang informed Daily NK on November 28 that “the authorities suddenly began carrying out a population survey in certain districts of Pyongyang.” Daily NK has received similar reports from South Pyongan Province.
The Vice Director of North Korea’s Central Bureau of Statistics previously stated in an interview with the Party-run publication Rodong Sinmun last March that the government would “carry out a national census to determine the country’s population, starting with a pilot survey from October 1, 2017.”
The source says that local People’s Unit (inminban, a type of neighborhood watch) leaders are taking advantage of the census and demanding bribes from people. Although the amount is small at only 400 KPW, “it is causing friction between ordinary citizens and the People’s Unit leaders,” he said.
“Some people quietly handed over the bribe and the paperwork, but those who refused to pay the bribe were subsequently hounded by unit leaders, nitpicking over every last detail of the document, including name, birthday, gender, place of birth, work position, and household registry (number and names of people in the household). They were also pressured to complete the document within a short time,” the source added.
A People’s Unit leader would barely be able to buy 2 kg of rice even if they received a 400 KPW bribe from 20-30 households.
Meanwhile, the North Korean government has also been requesting funding from abroad. Han Song Ryol, Vice Foreign Minister at North Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, approached the UN’s Population Fund this past June, which passed along a request for $6 million to the South Korean government in order to carry out their planned census.
However, some defectors living in the South have expressed concerns that the North Korean government is using the census as an excuse to extract more foreign currency from the international community.
In reality, North Korea today already has at its disposal the means to determine its population. The North Korean Ministry of People’s Security (which is similar to a national police agency) is in charge of each citizen’s registration documents, carrying basic personal information for all residents. The MPS would simply have to collect the information from its local offices to determine the number.
North Korea has in the past received funding from the UN Population Fund in 1994 and 2008. An amount of $5.5 million USD was given to the North in 2008.