Daily NK snapshots from North Korea

North Korea's "Gold Bell" navigation app
North Korea’s “Gold Bell” navigation app. Image: Arirang Maeari

State Security agent in Chongjin murders husband of mistress

Local sources told Daily NK that an intelligence officer has been arrested in relation to an incident in mid-June in which a Chongjin man disappeared after discovering that his wife and the intelligence officer were having an affair and watching pornography produced in South Korea. Despite growing rumors that the man had been murdered by the two individuals, the Ministry of State Security declined to investigate the matter, citing a lack of evidence. Investigations only began after a sibling of the victim — who is currently serving as a personal pilot for Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang — escalated the issue with authorities.

When the police brought in the two suspects for questioning, they first denied having murdered the husband but eventually confessed to the act. Though they initially testified that the death was an accidental result of the husband becoming irrational and violent, they changed their account, confessing that the murder was intentional (to stop him from reporting their possession of South Korean media). The incident has served as an impetus for intelligence officers to more proactively root out South Korean and foreign media in Chongjin.

Indoor swimming pools for rural students filled with muddy water

Having designated July and August as Aquatic Sports Months, the North Korean government has focused on promoting swimming, but images released in the midst of the promotion depict poor water quality at some of the indoor facilities. Korean Central Television recently aired video footage of elementary school students at a swimming pool in Onjin County. Although the footage was released with the objective of encouraging participation in the Aquatic Sports Months project, concerns have been raised about the muddy water seen in the pools.

The broadcast acknowledged that formerly dilapidated swimming pools have been hastily restored for use in the Aquatic Sports Months project, and it appears that the water has not been filtered adequately during the process. In contrast, the swimming facilities in the capital of Pyongyang appear much cleaner in images released by the North Korean media, highlighting the distinct sanitation standards and resources allocated between the ‘Capital of the Revolution’ and regional areas of the country.

New North Korean apps copied from foreign technology

Following the release of ten smartphone apps last year, North Korea has recently unveiled another ten new additions. According to North Korean media, the newly released apps range from navigation to healthcare and entertainment apps. However, the number of new North Korean apps is low, relative to the number of new apps released annually on the global iTunes and Google Play stores.

Moreover, it appears that the North Korean apps have been reverse engineered using source code from apps released abroad, despite the regime’s propaganda claiming that the apps were developed independently within North Korea. Though North Korea has established an Intellectual Property Rights Protection Office to ostensibly facilitate future Korean unification, there appears to be a disconnect with reality given the prolific copyright infringements evident in their app development.

Female prisoner charged with methamphetamine distribution escapes custody

News of a prisoner who escaped custody on July 20 has recently become public knowledge, according to Daily NK sources in North Korea. The fugitive is a woman in her forties who escaped while being transported to a correctional labor camp to serve a sentence of thirteen years for methamphetamine distribution charges. The exact details of her escape and any potential relationships with the security guards assigned to the transport are unclear.

In 2014, the North Korean government announced that it would be waging a war against drugs, and has since apprehended and sentenced to death a considerable number of people for the manufacture and distribution of drugs. The prisoner in question was able to evade detection despite the punitive political climate as she supplied exclusively to a small pool of high-ranking individuals. Given that she has yet to be apprehended, there are suspicions that she has already crossed the Sino-DPRK border.