Broker in North Korea placed on trial for human trafficking


Samjiyon construction site. Image: KCNA

A man in his 40s who aided the transfer of two shock workers from the Samjiyon modernization project to human traffickers in China was recently arrested and put on public trial.

“A trial was held on January 18 in front of the Ryanggang Province Court and involved six defendants,” a Ryanggang Province-based source said on January 28. “One of the defendants was a resident of Hyesan in his 40s. He received a six-year sentence and was transferred to the Kaechon Correctional Labor Camp.”

The man worked as a defector broker for the past 10 years and lived in relative luxury with a network that stretched across Hyesan. He was well-known even among Ministry of State Security (MSS) officials and had nearly been arrested several times in the past. He was previously able to escape prison time by paying out bribes, the source said.

He was finally brought to trial after it was discovered that he had sold two female shock workers in their 20s who were involved in the Samjiyon modernization project to human traffickers last autumn.

Kim Jong Un is paying close attention to the progress of the Samjiyon modernization project. In his New Year’s Address, he stated that, “Ambitious construction projects should be conducted for the prosperity of the fatherland and the happiness of the people,” and that, “The entire Party, country and people should transform Samjiyon County into the standard for mountainous cultural cities and the ideal model of socialism.”

The North Korean authorities were thus facing pressure to deal with the man’s human trafficking allegations.

Kim Jong Un during a July 2018 site visit to a construction site in Samjiyon. Image: KCNA

“This incident damaged the prestige of the Samjiyon modernization project, which is a major focus of higher-ups in the state, and members of the shock worker teams had already raised the issue in regards to what had happened. If the victims hadn’t been part of the Samjiyon shock team, the man may have been able to buy his way out of jail time,” a separate source in Ryanggang Province reported.

“That being said, locals are predicting that the man will only be punished lightly despite the serious nature of the crime. The defendant is known to be well-connected and heavily bribes senior officials, so although he was sentenced to jail time, he only got six years.”

An additional source in Ryanggang Province noted, “People are saying that the man has so much money that he won’t suffer much in prison, and that he’ll likely be released early due to ‘illness’,” said the source.

The other five defendants tried at the public court had gone to China briefly to earn money before returning to North Korea. They were sentenced to six months in a disciplinary labor center and one year in a correctional labor camp.