A resident of Hamhung, South Hamgyong Province, was recently subjected to public criticism and then arrested after he was caught filling his own pockets as an employee of a state-run department store, Daily NK has learned. 

A source in the province told Daily NK on Wednesday that provincial prosecutors held a “public criticism session” of an “employee of a department store in Hamhung” on June 1. Accusing the employee of “unethically pursuing his selfish self-interest through a state-run shop,” prosecutors arrested him after the session.

According to the source, the individual had worked at the department store for only a few months. He had earlier engaged in corruption at a major state-run procurement shop in downtown Hamhung, however, and allegedly continued to pursue his “selfish interests” after transferring to the department store.

When the man was at the state-run procurement store in downtown Hamhung, the authorities raised the state-set amount of income his store was supposed to earn. In response, the man shifted all the shop’s goods elsewhere and let his staff go. Then he sent his resignation to his superiors, telling them he could no longer run the shop because of “non-existent distribution due to border closures and [his own] poor health.”

Hamhung, South Hamgyong Province. / Image: Clay Gilliland

After bribing someone at the commercial department of the provincial people’s committee, however, he transferred to the downtown department store a month later. He placed the goods from his old shop among the department store’s goods on display, selling them for more than three times their original price. 

The source said the individual’s wrongdoing was discovered by two former coworkers from the old shop he had “terminated without reason.” Having unjustly lost their jobs, they kept a close eye on their former boss. When they learned what he was doing, they “verbally informed” the head of the provincial people’s committee.

Though North Korean authorities took issue with him bribing an official to work at the department store, they considered his pursuit of “selfish interests” by “selling old goods at high prices” a violation of the principle of “serving the people.” Accordingly, they ordered provincial prosecutors to “deal with the problem.” 

North Korean authorities also found it “despicable” that the man had shirked state-set income targets to fill his pockets while the entire country remained focused on “socialist economic construction” during the difficulties caused by COVID-19. Labeling his actions “capitalist behavior” that “eats away at society,” the authorities subjected him to public criticism. 

The man was forced to stand in front of the staff of commercial services institutions, the heads of market management offices, shop managers, cashiers, and commercial department workers to be publicly criticized. The authorities then handcuffed him at the scene and dragged him off to the preliminary examination department of the provincial branch of the Ministry of Social Security.

The source said that the heads of the provincial prosecutor’s office and the provincial people’s committee took the rostrum at the conclusion of the public criticism session to instill fear among those in the audience. Warning that they would show no forgiveness to crimes by “workers of people’s service entities” – and that they would strengthen punishments of said crimes – they called on attendees to “get their act together and faithfully work for the people.”

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.
Read in Korean
Lee Sang Yong is editor-in-chief of Daily NK and previously spent a number of years working as one of the publication’s foreign correspondents in China. He can be reached at dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.