A special handgun was reportedly stolen last month from an office at a shooting range under the command of the 597th United Corps, which is part of the East Coast Fleet Command based in Nakwon County, South Hamgyong Province.
“The ‘Mt Paektu’ handgun was stolen from the orderly officer’s office at the shooting range,” a Daily NK source based in South Hamgyong Province said on September 26. “The incident came to light after the gun was discovered missing during a joint review by the Operations Division and Systems Division of the East Coast Fleet Command on August 22.”
According to the source, of the total of six handguns, including three types of 1958 handguns, two types of TT-33 handguns, and the single Mt. Paektu handgun in the orderly’s office, only the Mt. Paektu handgun was determined to be missing. The authorities are yet to determine the location of the gun over a month after it was found missing.
The Mt. Paektu handgun was kept in storage, as military officers do not normally check it out for live-fire practice. Military officers generally check out the TT-33 when the orderly officer is on duty, according to the source.
The Mt. Paektu handgun was copied from the Czech CZ-75 in the 1970s and is an automatic 9 mm caliber pistol. The gun barrel has the words “Mt. Paektu” on it, in a replication of Kim Il Sung’s own handwriting. The gun was intended for use as a ceremonial weapon by the military brass from the 1980s and is still widely used to this day.
Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il have both given Mt. Paektu handguns to military leaders as a way to honor their achievements. As it has become known that the missing handgun was one gifted by a Supreme Leader, the military is taking the incident very seriously, added the source.
The incident was reported to the Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces, and the Ministry of People’s Security (MSS)’s 4th Division of the East Coast Fleet Command is conducting an investigation.
A second source in South Hamgyong Province who corroborated the theft of the gun also told Daily NK that a “registry and review of all weapons, ammunition and combat-related items is being conducted by the 597th Corps.”
A missing firearm in North Korea is considered a major political incident that can threaten the safety of the Supreme Leader, so those responsible face harsh punishment if caught, he explained.
“If a weapon cannot be found 10 days after it is deemed missing, the authorities increase the monitoring of people moving to and from Pyongyang and the border region, and hand down administrative punishment to the military leaders responsible,” he said.