Knock-Down, Drag-Out War in Musan County

Local branches of the National Security Agency and People’s Safety Ministry in Musan County, North Hamkyung Province are at war, battling to reveal acts of illegality linked to defection and illegal cross-border telecommunications on the part of agents at the opposing agency.

Orders from the new Kim regime to impose harsh punishments for defection are understood to have lit the fuse for a loyalty battle, with the NSA taking the opportunity to expand its investigations into cases involving staff from the PSM, leading to what has become a very public clash between the two agencies.

One source from Musan told Daily NK on February 3rd, “The NSA, which has been putting on a show since the Kim Jong Eun era began, is singling out families of people who defected in the past out of their desire to offer a gift of loyalty for the 100th anniversary of Kim Il Sung’s birth. The NSA is not covering up any cases involving PSM agents, keenly questioning the suspects.”

According to this source and others, this is in marked contrast to past times, when the NSA used to overlook the involvement of PSM agents in cases it was investigating.

This tacit competition has arisen partly because falling numbers of people are attempting to cross the Yalu River now that the risks of doing so have risen considerably, including the implementation of guilt-by-association stipulations that can result in three generations of a family being imprisoned or sent into internal exile. As a consequence, the internal security forces are finding it unusually hard to generate results, leading NSA agents to try and score points by returning to past cases.

Bribing PSA agents or security patrols is common practice in the process of crossing the Yalu or Tumen Rivers for business or to defect, and as part of the NSA’s interrogations of family members of defectors and missing persons, the complicity of staff within the PSM and border security patrols are easily uncovered.

However, many local people are confident that the current actions of the NSA are also very clearly connected to Kim Jong Eun’s recent order raising the status of the agency. In short, Kim has granted the NSA more authority, and it is now expanding its investigations in order to produce output in line with this new profile.

According to the source, the enthusiastic nature of NSA investigations have led PSM agents and staff from border security patrols to seek out those they accepted money from in the past to inform them to keep a low profile.

PSM agents are not going to go down without a fight, either, and are looking to get revenge by uncovering the transgressions of NSA agents. The source says they are doing this by chasing up people who have been interrogated by the NSA to see what they can find out.

They are particularly looking for evidence of NSA agents turning a blind eye to the making of international telephone calls (which falls under the jurisdiction of the NSA), or complicity in the smuggling of goods. Most smuggling can be connected to NSA staff without much difficulty.

The source says that the result of all this is a cut-throat conflict. He explained, “This has quickly amplified from personal clashes between individuals into an inter-agency conflict. With even border patrols getting involved, everybody is sharpening up their blades.”

The source went on, “Citizens are in a tough spot because the agencies are even delving into cases that were over and done with. So, rather than sit there and suffer, now even members of the public are entering the fray, wanting to get revenge on the security forces.”