Fortune teller and clients arrested in Ryanggang Province

A recent photo of Hyesan City, Ryanggang Province. Image: Daily NK

In a bid to strengthen efforts to curb superstitious activities, the North Korean authorities have arrested a fortune teller and her clients in Ryanggang Province, local sources report.

“A fortune teller who had a lot of clients was arrested on October 17,” said a Ryanggang Province-based source on October 31. “The authorities had officially announced that they would eradicate such ‘superstition-based activities’ but the fortune-teller continued her work. She will likely be placed into a correctional labor facility.”

“The fortune teller continued her activities after arriving in Huchang County (in Kimhyongjik County, Ryanggang Province). She was arrested with four of her female clients who had paid for her services. [They all] received punishment of two months in a disciplinary labor center (rodong dallyeondae),” the source added. “More people will likely be arrested in the coming days because she had a lot of clients in the province.”

The North Korean state regards superstition-based activities like fortune telling to be against the principles of socialism and prohibits such activities by law.

Section 256 of the North Korean criminal code states, “Anyone who commits superstition-based activities for money or other forms of payment will be sentenced to up to one year in a forced labor camp, and if the person in question has taught others about superstition-based activities or their crimes are of a serious nature, they will be sentenced to up to three years in a forced labor camp.”

The North Korean authorities have reportedly announced that they will closely monitor and punish superstition-based activities among the population in an attempt to prevent such activities from spreading.

“The authorities received a report in July that superstition-based activities among poorer North Koreans have reached an all-time high. A standing committee meeting was held to discuss ways to eradicate such activities from society and policies [orders] and announcements were handed down,” a separate source in Ryanggang Province reported.

According to the source, the official announcement stated, “Superstition-based activities go against the Party, create fantasies directed at a particular person or people, and create a gap between the Party and the people.”

The statement also said that “anyone who conducts or leads such activities or supports such activities will be subject to punishment to the full extent of the law.”

Such activities, however, have not completely been eradicated despite such efforts, an additional Ryanggang Province-based source added.

“The recent arrest of the fortune teller and her clients is aimed at clearly showing the country that the authorities are resolute in their aim to completely eradicate such activities. The authorities will likely increase their surveillance and crack downs on such activities in the future,” she said.

The success of this strategy, however, remains uncertain. North Korea strengthened punishments regarding superstition-based activities in its 2013 reform of the criminal code, but this did not lead to ongoing success.

North Korea also prohibits all forms of religion, all traditional forms of fortune-telling, and the expression of folk beliefs. The North Korean authorities consider religious people to be anti-state and anti-revolutionary elements and persecute them accordingly.

As a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, North Korea is duty-bound to adhere to Article 18, Clause 1, of that treaty which states, “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.”

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