The director of Hyesan’s Ministry of State Security (MSS) office is still wielding authority despite speculation that he would resign after a leak involving North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s travel plans to Samjiyon last October, Daily NK has learned. 

“He was to be given an ‘honorable discharge’ based on his advanced age in December after the leakage of news that Kim Jong Un’s train would pass through Hyesan,” a Ryanggang Province said source on Thursday. “He wasn’t removed from his position, however, and recently received a one year extension in his term.” 

Daily NK reported previously that North Korea authorities had viewed the leak as a serious issue given that the security network safeguarding Kim Jong Un was compromised. Sources predicted that the MSS director in Hyesan would take the blame and be forced to resign. 

POWERFUL CONNECTIONS

North Korean authorities are justifying the director’s extension in office under the pretext that “there isn’t a suitable predecessor,” one source told Daily NK. Sources suspect, however, that “powerful backers” are the main reason the man hasn’t been forced to resign. 

“For a long time there has been talk about how the MSS director in Hyesan spent a lot of money helping out families of high-ranking officials at the central and regional offices of the MSS,” said the source. “His connections probably make it difficult to get rid of him.” 

The director has become more shameless following the extension of his term. Even during the designated “special enforcement period” at the end of the year (Nov. 27 – Jan. 2), he approved family visitations of certain suspects at his office’s holding center after receiving bribes, Daily NK sources said. 

“Despite orders to strengthen control during the [recently held] Central Committee plenary session in Pyongyang, the director spent more time just approving family visits for suspects held in the holding center,” said a source. “Significant bribes were probably involved.”

While North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was stressing “the establishment of moral discipline across society” to top officials at the plenary session, Hyesan’s top security official was busy trying to line his own pockets, sources concluded. 

“Anyone who is indebted to Hyesan’s top MSS official will need to give him a lot of money during the rest of his term in office,” another source told Daily NK. “There are rumors in some circles that the director is brazenly demanding bribes in American dollars or Chinese yuan.”

*Translated by Violet Kim

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

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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 dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.