Ryanggang cadres seek escape advice from fortune tellers

Kang Mi Jin  |  2016-10-06 17:20
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In the wake of a series of high-profile defections by North Korean officials, some cadres are reportedly seeking the advice of fortune tellers to explore the probability for successful defection. In the face of frequent purges and punishments under the reign of Kim Jong Un, such individuals are turning to superstitious acts to allay their fears.

"Recently, quite a few officials have been seeking the advice of fortune tellers regarding a potential escape from the country. This is due to the pressure theyre facing and the threat of being purged if they don't fulfill the orders handed down by the Central Party, a source from Ryanggang Province reported to Daily NK in a telephone conversation on October 4.

"For this reason, more cadres are seeking out fortune tellers these days, and if a rumor spreads that a certain fortune teller is talented, high-ranking officials will visit them to seek their insights.

This development was corroborated by multiple sources in Ryanggang Province.

In North Korea a pervasive atmosphere of insecurity exists due to anxieties regarding livelihood, health, and social control. For this reason, a demand for superstitious practices had already existed, and this has only grown under the reign of Kim Jong-un, as even the officials tasked with clamping down on these activities are themselves seeking the advice of shamans.

Acts of superstition that are not officially sanctioned (i.e. emanating from a source other than the Kim family) is illegal in North Korea. North Koreas Penal Code 256 (superstitious practices crime) stipulates that a person who engages in superstitious practices in exchange for money or goods shall be punished with labor training of up to one year. It also states that if the practice outlined in the preceding clause is severe, the person shall be punished by reeducation and hard labor for up to three years.

In reality, residents who are caught paying fortune tellers are not normally subject to the legal penalties stipulated. Instead they are put through rigorous ideological training that emphasizes a focus on revolutionary ideas, as they are believed to have drifted from socialist norms. However, crackdowns for these acts are not properly carried out because the officials in the military and security agents themselves also frequently have their fortunes read.

"In Ryanggang Province, its common knowledge that officials visit fortune tellers to ask about promotions or relocating (escaping)," the source continued. "Some of the more industrious fortune tellers charge different prices according to the status and rank of the client."

It has become normal for the families of cadres who are planning to escape the country to select the date according to the advice of a prominent fortune teller It costs about 10,000 KPW for ordinary citizens to ask about health or marriage issues, but when it comes to defections for officials, the price skyrockets to approximately 600,000 KPW.

Given that the current market price of rice in North Korea is approximately 5,000 KPW per kilogram, 600,000 KPW is sufficient to buy 120 kg of rice. In regards to this, the source added, "On the surface it seems like a lot of money, but price is just a detail because when cadres in North Korea decide to escape the country, it means they are betting everything they have.

*Translated by Yejie Kim
*Edited by Lee Farrand

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