The yellow circle indicates a guard in front of a idolization mural and the red circle shows
a patrol car tasked with protecting such memorials. Image: Daily NK
The North Korean authorities have handed down orders to increase the security of facilities and monuments that idolize the Kim family. The aim of the order appears to be twofold; to prevent incidents and to strengthen national unity.
“Orders have been handed down to increase attention towards ‘eternal life’ towers, oil paintings, and wall murals located all over the country. Public security officers (police) have been mobilized for night patrols,” a Pyongyang source told Daily NK during a telephone call on October 20.
“Agencies have constantly been saying, ‘Use lights to illuminate statues and paintings of the three generals of the Mount Paektu bloodline (the Kim family dynasty) and thoroughly care for them to ensure that hostile elements cannot damage them.’ Local units are increasing the number of personnel tasked with strengthening security [for the idolization objects].”
When asked about the extent of the order’s impact, he explained that “it covers oil paintings and towns and cities. It also includes expanded surveillance efforts for pictures of the leaders at regional schools. In the past, special guards were dispatched to watch over these items during holidays. The reason behind the change remains unclear.”
Prior to this, special guards were assigned to look over idolization objects day and night during special occasions, such as the anniversary of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il’s birthday and death, New Year’s, and holidays like Chuseok (the traditional Korean autumn harvest festival). Now, guards are being sent to protect the items during other times as well, such as the busy harvest season. Seeing this, residents are saying among themselves that, “the country’s situation doesn’t look good.”
The international sanctions targeting North Korea have significantly affected product prices in the North’s economy. As the situation continues to deteriorate, the regime appears to be trying to consolidate feelings of unity or common purpose by guarding the idolization objects. It is also likely that the regime is trying to distract residents and keep them busy to prevent social unrest or agitation against the leadership that could result from the worsening economic conditions.
The increase in patrols around the statues and murals is particularly noticeable in the capital city of Pyongyang.
“In most regions of Pyongyang, power is being supplied to light up the most important propaganda objects from 7pm to 5am. Patrolmen and other security guards are protecting the sites in shifts,” a separate source in Pyongyang said.
He added that in regions where the power supply is unreliable, local party committees are seeking reliable sources of electricity. Accordingly, many have purchased solar panels to carry out the new orders. Cadres and the police are working together to take care of the idolization objects, but there is very little genuine loyalty in the process.
The same source explained the true motivations for following these orders: “They hope to improve their career standing, avoid being dismissed, or just to continue in their current roles. Some of the police officers put money into the solar panels, so they think it’s important to guard them anyway.”