Information Management, the North Korean Way

Issues pertaining to North Korean resident registration documents are dealt with by the People’s Safety Agency (PSA). When parents register the birth of a baby at the local offices of the PSA, the PSA issues a birth certificate to them. Of course, registration of death is also the work of the PSA.

A resident registration document is classified as the most fundamental national secret in North Korea. Therefore, the persons in local offices of the PSA who are in charge of resident registration documents and other related papers are known as “confidential agents.”

The documents of North Korean residents contain family backgrounds and social elements, in addition to basic information such as names, birthdays, and addresses.

In terms of family background, they record parents’ positions, social class and family information, and one’s career after graduation from middle school must be thoroughly recorded.

As is well-known, the authorities classify every resident into the core class, the unsettled class and the hostile class, and they divide these three classes by 51 divisions. The authorities have maintained this social class policy for 60 years.

As a result, it is natural in North Korea that parents’ social status is handed down to children.

▶ How are registration documents dealt with?

Although the North Korean authorities have not digitalized information yet, the authorities’ grasp on the people is completely stable. A delegates’ election to the Supreme People’s Assembly is carried out once every five years and military intake occurs every spring. Moreover, the guilt-by-association system, largely controlled by the National Security Agency, is also extremely powerful.

According to North Korean sources, the authorities copy every resident registration document and the Workers’ Party stores it for security and cross-referencing.

Sometimes, mid-level cadres fabricate their registration documents, but if they are promoted to high official positions like secretary in a provincial Committee of the Party, their true backgrounds must be revealed.

A source explained the reason, “North Korean people can change the contents of their registration document kept by the PSA with bribes. However, no matter how high you get, you cannot touch the document kept by the Workers’ Party.