Corruption Probe Prompts Retaliation

Choi Song Min  |  2015-02-03 17:55
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North Koreas Central Party has reportedly launched inspections into safety authorities and high-ranking officials at local law enforcement units under the Ministry of Peoples Safety in the face of growing corruption and use of coercion on residents. This is seen as a move to dispel mounting discontent among the public that is stemming from the tighter grip and control leader Kim Jong Eun has been enforcing. 

A local source also speculated that the measure could be a sign that the Central Party has determined this unruly governing from state agencies to be hindering overall state control of the public.

At the beginning of last month, documents were handed down from the Central Party for orders to investigate local law enforcement offices in the province, the source based in North Hamkyung Province told the Daily NK on Monday. The documents contained orders for provincial Party committees to put together surveillance teams and investigate each and every case of verbal and physical abuse against residents and acts of bribery from these law enforcement officials. 

According to these orders, the provincial Party department oversees the entire inspection, aimed at investigating all acts of corruption from law enforcement officials, and with information procured from residents, purports to penalize all assailants involved. The source explained that the orders come amid mounting anxiety from residents due to the reckless misconduct from law enforcement officials, which he asserted has grown more severe as of late. 

The Kim Jong Eun era has stepped up surveillance and control to enhance solidarity and discipline over the public, and in the process, law enforcement officials have arguably become more corrupt, with many openly demanding bribes, and for those unwilling to comply, unleashing on them a torrent of verbal and physical attacks without hesitation. 

In many of these cases, wielding their positions for monetary gain, law officials team up with loan sharks and force people to pay back their money; so frequently do these incidents involve bribes to be resolved, many residents refer to these corrupt officials as "digger wasps" behind their backs and curse their general existence. 

According to the source, the pretenses offered for these bribes grow increasingly flimsy and baseless. They inspect peoples belongings not only at the markets, but also as they pass by streets and alleys and use whatever random excuse they come up with to demand money and bribes. Cases of assault and imprisonment for people who dont willingly comply keep increasing, he said. 

Desperate to keep the goods and profits on which residents are so reliant to maintain their livelihoods, some have taken extreme measures to express their anger. Recently in a town in Musan County, a female gasoline merchant in her 40s attempted to set herself on fire using diesel oil after being humiliated by a security official who also confiscated her goods, he said. Following this incident, five officials attacked the womans entire family in the middle of the night for her act of revolt, which led to strong protest from other residents in the village.   

Suicides have been another gruesome outcome of this corruption. Toward the end of last year, dozens of households in the coastal areas of both North and South Hamkyung Provinces lost their homes or committed suicide because they were unable to pay back debt, the source said. Many people ended up with mountains of debt because of the abysmal squid catch, but law enforcement officials would come and pressure them to pay it back, citing alleged legal procedures, or overlook assaults from loan sharks. This has caused a lot of suicides."

Outlined by the Central Party as anti-revolutionary actions that derail the Party and the public, acts like these are presumably subject to severe punishments, but the source reported that in an internal inspection within the provincial Party such as this, existing relationships will play a pivotal role, predictably allowing for those with money and power to evade punishment.

Another source in North Hamkyung Province reported that some residents have actually suffered retaliation for reporting incidents of abuse. Because the probe is an internal investigation, even if one is to report corrupt officials, others with whom the subject in question is close or the subject him or herself may hold a grudge and seek retribution. Once the true nature of the investigation presented itself, many residents have said, This inspection is just for show so they can try to tame the increasingly disaffected populace. If they really thought of verbal and physical attacks as serious crimes, not a single law enforcement official would be alive.

*Translated by Joseph Oh

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