The extraordinary appointment of the Central Public Prosecutors Office director as an alternate member of the politburo last month may have been a move to restrain the power of the Ministry of State Security and Ministry of Social Security while strengthening the prosecutors office. 

A Daily NK source in North Korea said Friday that many people believe the appointment was a warning to the Ministry of State Security and Ministry of Social Security.

“In North Korea, there is an ongoing struggle to root out anti-socialist and non-socialist behavior,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “[The appointment] is being read as a message that if Ministry of State Security and Ministry of Social Security officials on the front lines take money to look the other way or unjustly punish people, the prosecutors will catch all of them.”

In fact, there is speculation that with the extraordinary appointment of the director of the Central Public Prosecutors Office to the politburo, prosecutors are likely “brandishing a knife against the Ministry of State Security and Ministry of Social Security because those ministries are unreliable.”

Ostensibly, the appointment appears aimed at boosting the role of the judiciary as a whole while North Korean authorities stress the eradication of “anti-socialist and non-socialist behavior.” However, many believe the move really aims to strengthen the position of the prosecutors as a means to control the outsized authority of the Ministry of State Security and Ministry of Social Security.

Previously, the Central Public Prosecutors Office dispatched investigative teams all over the country to get a detailed account of corruption by Ministry of State Security and Ministry of Social Security officials bribed through money or power to ignore illegal behavior. 

Kim Jong Un holding up a signed version of his “special order” as reported by North Korean state media on June 18, 2021. / Image: Rodong Sinmun

About 100 “problematic” officials from the Ministry of State Security and approximately 70 officials from the Ministry of Social Security were sacked as a result.

According to the source, officials from the Central Public Prosecutors Office sent to Gangwon Province as part of the investigative teams joined hands with the provincial prosecutor’s office and randomly went through the documentation of cases being handled by the Ministry of Social Security. They directly interviewed parties involved in the cases, determining whether they were unfairly treated or made to give false confessions while being investigated by ministry agents.

In one case, one of the parties involved admitted to his crime, but complained he was sentenced to 15 years of correctional labor while another person who embezzled even more state property was given only three years of lighter labor because “his wife was the niece of a cadre and there was a fighter pilot in his family.” Problems rose when investigators found that the ministry agent in charge had in fact violated the “law and principles.”

All in all, Central Public Prosecutors Office officials dispatched nationwide learned that Ministry of State Security and Ministry of Social Security officials are frequently colluding with the rich and powerful to engage in corruption or unjustly punish individuals. Afterwards, Central Public Prosecutors Office Director U Sang Chol submitted a comprehensive report on the matter to the leadership. 

“[Officials] must act prudently because unjustly punishing a person doesn’t end with just the individual. It impacts a person’s entire family up to their second cousins, and may be an act of separating the masses from the Workers’ Party,” the report reportedly said. “However, [officials] are openly handling cases in unprincipled and anti-Party ways.”

“The Supreme Leader [Kim Jong Un] also read the report, and named Comrade U Sang Chol as an alternate member of the politburo to strengthen the Central Public Prosecutors Office,” said the source. “Perhaps because of this, people are saying that the only way to get recognition now is to take the lead and get results, rather than simply following orders.”

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.
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Ha Yoon Ah is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about her articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.