North Korea’s security organs are extorting individuals who have aided defectors or used Chinese mobile phones, using Kim Jong Un’s orders as a pretext to earn significant sums of money. Security personnel are reportedly issuing threats of punishment in a labor camp, but also leniency in exchange for large bribes.
These bribes can reach up to 20,000 RMB, a fortune for ordinary people. But agents from the Ministry of State Security (MSS) are able to extract such payments using coercion and threats, as evidenced by a recent case in Hoeryong (North Hamgyong Province) where a North Korean resident was arrested for aiding defections.
“Recently, many have been arrested in the border areas due to wide crackdowns, but some are released after paying bribes. One resident in Hoeryong reportedly paid 20,000 RMB to be released a month after the arrest,” a source in North Hamgyong Province told Daily NK on July 10.
“The agents issue threats of lifetime sentences in labor correction camps and then ruthlessly beat them. After the violence, they inform the prisoners that they can be released in exchange for money, which is always the plan from the beginning.”
According to the source, one incident involved a woman in her early 20s who succeeded in crossing the river to China but was captured in Shenyang, Liaoning Province, last May and was repatriated. The woman was forced to reveal those who helped her escape during the investigation. Although she remained silent, the agents succeeded in identifying the individual who assisted her.
The MSS agents charged the resident with ‘Inducement and guidance for defection,’ which although not explicitly stated in the North Korean Penal Code, was based on the resident’s own statement that they did not directly send the woman to China.
“Generally, MSS agents believe that beating an innocent person can make them guilty. They are trying to find ways to extort money from the residents, using orders from the authorities to strengthen crackdowns and punishments,” a separate source in North Hamgyong Province said, confirming the story.
As a result, she said, Kim Jong Un’s strategy to seal off the border area has been turned into an opportunity for these agents to earn more money.
“Recently, agents from the Ministry of People’s Security (police) have been detecting the use of mobile phones using a bugging device, increasing the number of bribes that can be received,” she added.
Arrest operations for defectors have been expanded in Ryanggang Province and North Hamgyong Province. The Provincial MSS departments are said to be full of detainees arrested on suspicion of defection or the use of Chinese mobile phones.