Soldiers part of an elite military construction unit recently came under investigation for performing interior renovations at private homes for profit, Daily NK learned from Pyongyang-based sources on Oct. 29. 

The soldiers were reportedly following orders from high-ranking officials in the first brigade of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) construction corps to renovate the interiors of homes owned by Pyongyang’s donju (the country’s entrepreneurial class) in exchange for foreign currency, the sources said.

The first brigade has been tasked with building structures idolizing Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, including the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, along with villas for the country’s top leadership. 

North Korea prohibits military officers from engaging in private money-earning activities out of concern that such activities may compromise their ideology and cause a “disruption” in military discipline.

Daily NK sources said that despite such restrictions, soldiers in the first brigade occasionally earn money on the side through interior construction projects. The recent investigation, however, centered on the fact that high-ranking officials selected the most skilled soldiers among the elite military construction unit to work on interior renovations. 

The selection of highly capable soldiers to work on the renovations suggested to investigators that the scale of such corruption had become widespread throughout the unit, one of the sources said. 

The soldiers worked on private homes located in Pyongyang’s Tongdaewon District. Investigators found out about the unit’s illegal construction activities when owners of the renovated houses disclosed who had conducted the renovations to visitors to their homes, Daily NK sources said.

Ultimately, however, investigators blamed the illegal construction work on a lowly officer in the elite military construction unit and ignored the responsibility of high-ranking officials who gave orders to carry out the construction in the first place, one of the sources said.

The officer was dishonorably discharged, while soldiers involved in the actual construction work were simply forced to write self-criticisms because they were deemed to have been acting under orders from their superiors, he added.

*Translated by Violet Kim

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