Ministry of State Security vice-director takes matters into own hands with public lecture

A North Korean resident in Onsong County, North Hamgyong Province draws water from the frozen river in March 2019
A North Korean resident in Onsong County, North Hamgyong Province draws water from the frozen river in March 2019. Image: Daily NK

North Korea’s Ministry of State Security (MSS) is tightening control over the Sino-North Korean border region following an order by the central government to strengthen monitoring and reporting of border crossings and defections during lectures for ordinary residents.

“The vice-director of the MSS in Pochon County in Hyesan held a lecture for local residents on May 26,” a Ryanggang Province-based source told Daily NK. “The lecture criticized those making international calls and receiving money from abroad, as well as ‘illegal river-crossers.’”

The vice-director also said that there are many cases in which people are communicating with the outside world in the border region, including in Hyesan and that it is “counter to the revolution to make calls to relatives in South Korea or China and use the money they send over.”

In response to this, the source said that the vice-director “spoke on money transfers and international calls, but the whole point of the lecture was to emphasize that people should not leak ‘internal’ information to the outside world.”

MSS vice-directors are the highest-ranking security officials at the county level in North Korea. It is extremely rare for such officials to deliver lectures to ordinary citizens themselves.

That such a high-ranking official delivered the lecture shows how seriously the North Korean authorities are concerned about ordinary citizens turning their backs on the regime.

Vice-directors manage teams of MSS agents and the official may have stepped forward to avoid blame for recent cases of MSS agents accepting bribes in exchange for turning a blind eye to international calls and money transfers.

The vice-director sought to create an atmosphere of fear at the lecture and warned that he would ensure that no further “incidents” occur, according to a separate source in Ryanggang Province.

“There are many cases where people are hiding ‘non-residents’ in their houses and sending them to China when they can,” the vice-director said during the lecture, according to the source. “If you fail to report non-residents staying at other people’s houses, you will be subject to punishment.”

He also praised the work of informants, saying that, “A group of 19-year-olds crossed over to China thinking that it was a really great place, but when they returned home three months later, a neighbor reported them.”

“Criminals are scared of the ‘eyes of the people’ more than law enforcement officials,” he further added. “All of you must heighten your revolutionary sense of awareness and report everything you see.”

The official encouraged the attendees to actively report any cases of illegal ‘river-crossings’ to the authorities.

The Rodong Sinmun published an article on May 30 entitled “Having a Conscience Determines the Morality of Human Beings” that stated, “Our Party is emphasizing that revolutionary and sound morals become embedded in our society […] Anti-Party and anti-revolutionary actions will face serious punishment.”

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