'Watch list' grows to quash social unrest

Choi Song Min  |  2015-07-06 18:23
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North Korea has added to its watch list of questionable figures a much larger group of officials from state-run enterprises and donju [new affluent middle class], expanding surveillance that was mostly limited to those who were thought to have dubious political ideologies. This is as the state tightens its control over key figures to seal off social unrest and potential hostility within the country, Daily NK has learned. 

Recently, the State Security Department [SSD] expanded its scope of surveillance and has initiated more wiretaps, a source in South Pyongan Province told Daily NK on Monday. The SSD has ordered its units to keep a close watch on people of specific social rankings such as state enterprise authorities and donju. 

This development was confirmed by sources in two other provinces of North Korea, but in order to protect their identities Daily NK cannot reveal their respective locations.

In the past, only certain people were listed for monitoring such as problem groups -- that is, the hostile class within the songbun classification system [family political background and loyalty], those who had gone suspiciously missing, defector family members, or people who had been abroad on business trips, according to the source. 

Now, that scope is much wider, encompassing unit heads from state enterprises, trade company heads, and affluent classes who work in foreign currency-earning posts all on the watch list for monitoring, he asserted. 

State officials have noted that group leaders from state-run firms are constantly in contact with large numbers of members from the public, and donju play a crucial role in the economy due to more capitalist elements infiltrating society, the source added, explaining that such contact and influence-wielding potential among the masses is why authorities are keeping closer tabs on them in a bid to root out any risks down the line. 

In addition to the wiretapping, security officials have been planting two to three informants at each state enterprise to monitor and report on peoples activities; one of the most popular methods reported is that of engaging close friends and meticulously collecting every minute detail of their lives.

Officials who are mobilized to Kim Jong Un-related events are all on the list with no exception and are being closely watched, the source said, adding that this is why the list even includes workers tasked with particularly important work, such as train station masters, their deputies, and duty officers.   

Their mobile phones and home phones are always being wiretapped, he said, noting that special agents are dispatched to rooms nearby the homes and offices of suspects in groups of twos and threes to listen in on conversations in two to three hour shifts around the clock. 

Security agents also assign young female operators in their teens and 20s at provincial telegraph and telephone offices with wiretapping duties, and if the power goes out or theres a problem with phone lines, they dispatch a repairman immediately to reconnect the lines of people on the watch list, he said. 

Unsurprisingly, the step-up on wiretapping and surveillance has added a new layer of anxiety for people, with some, for the time being, too scared to even talk to their own family members," according to the source.

*Translated by Jiyeon Lee

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