Military couple faces corruption charges for illegal taxi business in Pyongyang 

Taxi cabs in Pyongyang in August of 2018. / Image: Daily NK

A military officer and his wife are under a corruption investigation for operating an illegal taxi business in Pyongyang, Daily NK learned from multiple sources on Thursday. 

North Korea prohibits military officers from engaging in private money-earning activities out of concern that such activities may compromise their ideology and cause a ‘disruption’ in military discipline. The authorities have created a task force to investigate the couple and their business given that they were operating the taxi service despite such tight restrictions. 

“In 2014, the officer and his wife bought two taxi cabs and hired drivers. They have allegedly been operating the taxi service for five years, but their activities were only reported in early August,” a Pyongyang-based source said. “Even the General Political Bureau[an agency tasked with reinforcing the Workers’ Party of Korea’s political control over the military] has become involved in the investigation.” 

According to the source, the military officer and his wife are both employed by the Korean People’s Internal Security Forces’ (KPISF) 8th General Bureau, which manages construction projects in Pyongyang. The KPISF reports to the Ministry of People’s Security (MPS), but is run in a similar way to a military organization. 

The wife is a military doctor at the 8th General Bureau’s military hospital in Pyongyang’s Sadong District, while the husband is a high-level military officer within the KPISF’s 8th General Bureau. 

One of the taxi cabs owned by the couple was stopped by traffic police for a traffic violation and the couple’s name arose during an investigation into the owner of the taxi. 

There are an estimated 6,000 taxi cabs operating in Pyongyang, according to data publishedin Korean by the Korea Institute for National Unification (KINU) in December 2018. Most taxi cabs are owned by state-run enterprises such as Air Koryo and the Daedong River Passenger Transport Service Company; however, some are independently owned. 

All taxi cabs, however, must be registered with the Taxi Management Office. The couple running the illegal taxi service was thought to have bribed another taxi company for use of their license plates to avoid difficulties in registering their own company.

Daily NK recently reported that North Korean officials are combating the increase in unregistered and unauthorized taxi cabs on the country’s roads, particularly in areas outside of Pyongyang. 

The couple now faces a corruption charge stemming from a simple traffic stop that has now led to a full-blown investigation into their activities. 

“The leadership is severely criticizing them for earning money through a taxi service when they should have focused on protecting the motherland,” another source in Pyongyang told Daily NK. “That the investigation will likely end up punishing them for corruption probably means that all officers in the 8th General Bureau will come under scrutiny.”