Graffiti that directly criticized North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was recently discovered in Pyongyang.

The discovery came as the city hosted the Fourth Plenary Meeting of the Eighth Central Committee of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea.

According to a Daily NK source last Wednesday, graffiti was discovered on the outside of an apartment in Pyongyang’s Pyongchon District on Dec. 22.

The graffiti read: “Kim Jong Un, you son of a *****. The people are starving to death because of you.”

A certain resident of Pyongchon District — identified by his family name of Kim — discovered the graffiti at around 4:20 AM while he was patrolling the neighborhood.

In accordance with protocol, the head of the inminban (people’s unit) reported the incident to the local security officer, who reported it to the district branch of the Ministry of State Security, which in turn reported it to the ministry’s city branch; finally, it was reported it to the ministry’s national branch.

Afterwards, the Ministry of State Security’s national, city, and district branches mobilized all its agents to close off the scene of the incident and erase the graffiti.

North Korea strictly bans all acts that directly criticize the nation’s leader. The authorities have charged offenders with crimes against the state or sedition, sending them to political prison camps or even executing them.

In Mar. 2018, a colonel in the General Staff Department was publicly executed after he was named the ringleader behind graffiti left on Pyongyang’s landmark April 25 House of Culture that criticized Kim’s regime.

That a major incident has suddenly emerged after three years without a significant disturbance has caught the attention of North Korea’s security authorities.

pyongyang scientists street kim jong suk
The Mirae Scientists Street in Pyongyang / Image: Ryugong website

They worry that the graffiti may be evidence that the excessive regulations and controls implemented under the pretext of “emergency COVID-19 quarantine efforts” since early last year have generated more public discontent than expected.

Additionally, the appearance of the graffiti ahead of the Central Committee’s Fourth Plenary Meeting put the security authorities on full alert.

The source said the authorities are taking the incident even more seriously as the graffiti appeared around the time of the 10th anniversary of the death of late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il (Dec. 17), the birthday of Kim Jong Il’s mother Kim Jong Suk (Dec. 24), and the party’s plenary meeting from Dec. 27.

He said the national branch of the Ministry of State Security is laser focused on finding the culprit and is conducting an intense investigation. 

In fact, the ministry’s Pyongchon District branch has been conducting “handwriting analyses” of workers at local factories and enterprises and even students since Dec. 23, as well as investigating their whereabouts that day.

However, people speculate that with the authorities installing CCTVs everywhere since Kim Jong Un took power, finding the culprit should take little time.

Meanwhile, the security authorities are on alert against similar incidents taking place in the provinces, given how this latest case took place in the capital Pyongyang, where residents are very loyal to the regime and enjoy better conditions across the board, including food provisions.

Relatedly, flyers and graffiti critical of Kim were found in Pochon County, Yanggang Province, and Chongjin, North Hamgyong Province, in 2016. Later that year, somebody spread dozens of KPW 5,000 bills defaced with similar criticism around downtown Hoeryong, North Hamgyong Province.

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

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Lee Chae Un is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. She can be reached at dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.