Ministry of State Security Official arrested on suspicion of espionage

View into North Korea from across the Tumen River in China’s Jilin Province. Image: Daily NK

An official assigned to North Hamgyong Province’s Ministry of State Security (MSS) in Onsong County was arrested in early October on suspicion of espionage, sources in the region report.

The official was arrested after it was revealed that he received money from a foreign source in exchange for filming videos and taking pictures inside North Korea. Three accomplices who acted under the official’s orders were also arrested and are currently being interrogated at the local MSS office, a source in North Hamgyong Province recently reported to Daily NK.

According to a statement released by the Onsong County MSS office, the official under investigation resides in Yokjon and enlisted the help of several acquaintances in their 20s and 30s to help film the illegal video. The video, which contains information about everyday life and various other material, was sold to an overseas buyer.

“After the incident, the Onsong County MSS has begun urging citizens to report any suspicious activity that may be related to selling information about our country to foreigners,” the source told Daily NK.

Filming inside North Korea with the intention of selling the information is considered espionage, a crime which carries a minimum sentence of five years of correctional labor and a maximum penalty of death.

The source added that the wife of the arrested official immediately filed plans for divorce out of fear of her entire family being taken to a political prisoner camp and “also submitted a petition to the courts to change her children’s last name from her husband’s to her own.”

A separate source in North Hamgyong Province with knowledge of the case noted, “The wife went to the MSS office to announce her intent to get a divorce and said, ‘I am ashamed to have been living for so long with a traitor to North Korea. My children and myself are going to sever all relations with their father.'”

In North Korea, he explained, if a political prisoner’s spouse files for divorce, they can be exempted from prosecution under the “guilt-by-association” system for one year, however they may still be charged under the pretext of being immediate family of the accused.   

“Because the wife went to the MSS on her own accord and formally denounced her husband, her children have yet to be moved to a political prisoner camp,” he concluded.

*Translated by Brian Boyle