Fighting in the Streets

There has been an explosion in the number of casualties resulting from popular resentment at harsh regulation of market activities by the security apparatus across North Korea, according to various Daily NK sources.

For instance, in Pyongsung, North Pyongan Province, normally one of the key distribution centers in North Korea, there have been several incidents of agents from the People’s Safety Agency (PSA), the organization charged with cracking down on the smuggling of food and other officially “immoral” acts, being attacked by unidentified assailants.

A Daily NK source reported on Monday, “A group of agents who had just finished doing the rounds of the jangmadang and alley markets in Naengcheon-dong, Haksu-dong, and Cheongok-ri in Pyongsung were attacked by a number of people, who assaulted them and immediately ran away. As a result, PSA officials are feeling very tense these days.”

Commenting privately on these incidents, some people savor them as acts of revenge, but others are worried about the situation, according to The Daily NK’s sources.

There have been more examples unearthed in recent days, too. For instance, North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity (NKIS), a Seoul-based defector group, recently received news that “a fight broke out between agents of the PSA, who monitor the Hyesan jangmadang, and some residents. As the fight turned serious, one resident snatched an agent’s gun and fired randomly into the crowd. One agent, Choe, is in a critical condition.”

According to NKIS, the fight began after the PSA agents beat up a trader who was trying to avoid the crackdown, and that made other residents angry, so they attacked the agents in return. As the fight grew more serious, agents threatened residents, but this only added fuel to the flames.

Finally, a Daily NK source from North Hamkyung Province released one other incident: Cho, who used to work for the Prosecutions Department of the National Security Agency in the region, was apparently killed by a Chongjin Steel Mill worker called Jeung Hyun Deuk.

The source explained, “Jeung’s father, the chief of a foreign currency-generating company, was interrogated last July on suspicion of embezzling enormous amounts of property and foreign currency, and in January was sentenced to life in prison. However, a few days after being imprisoned, he died. Thereafter, Jeung held a grudge against his father’s interrogator, Cho, and eventually killed him.”

The source concluded, “Traders and residents have lost their property due to the redenomination and are pretty much being treated as criminals as a result of the NSA and PSA’s ‘50-Day Battle.’ Therefore, people are taking revenge on agents, since they feel so desperate that, regardless of their actions, they will die. As a result, social unrest is becoming more serious.”

On January 2, the National Defense Commission released an order entitled “On completely sweeping away hostile factions who attempt to demolish our Republic from the inside,” initiating the “50-Day Battle” crackdown by the PSA and NSA in every city, county, and province which was referred to by the North Hamkyung Province source.