The head of the Ministry of State Security (MSS) office in Hyesan recently stepped down, a source in Yanggang Province province reported earlier today.

“Even after the incident involving the disclosure of [the whereabouts] of [Kim Jong Un’s] train last fall, the head of the MSS office in Hyesan received a year extension to his tenure,” the source, who requested anonymity for security reasons, told Daily NK. “The position is now changing hands and all the people who he took money from [bribes] are celebrating.”

Daily NK reported on Kim Jong Un’s trip to Samiyon in October of last year several days before North Korea published a story about the visit. North Korea closely guards the whereabouts of the North Korean leader. Given the security breach, there were rumors that the head of the Hyesan MSS office would be dismissed; however, it appears he was able to secure another year in the position due to his strong connections in the ministry.

“There were a lot of rumors that he might or might not be dismissed in October, but the word is that he has stepped down now that the year is up,” the source said. “He must’ve judged that it’s OK to leave his position now that he has collected enough money to feed three generations [of his family].”

Kim Jong Un samjiyon soldiers
North Korea’s Rodong Sinmun reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visited Samjiyon on Oct. 16, 2019. / Image: Rodong Sinmun

The source speculated that the man could use his considerable funds to maintain his authority in the city. However, there still remains the possibility that he could face political responsibility for the leak last year amid future political infighting.

His successor is reportedly an official within the provincial MSS office, not an official from Pyongyang. The source said that the successor has experience with “party activities” and that the authorities placed a priority on the official’s ability to communicate and cooperate with party officials in Pyongyang.

“The authorities judged that issues surrounding anti-espionage [efforts] and protecting the leadership in such a major city as Hyesan was more important than ever when considering the serious situation in the border region,” the source said. “They seem to have thought it was best to select a cadre who knows the province’s border situation better than them.”

Meanwhile, customs officials, traders and members of the donju (North Korea’s wealthy entrepreneurial class) are quickly trying to find out more about the new head of the city’s MSS office, including his house address and other personal details.

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Jeong Tae Joo is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. He focuses on North Korean military matters. Please direct any questions about his articles to