North Korea’s Ministry of People’s Security [MPS] has recently proclaimed and put into action a policy of stringent penalization
for traffic violations, doling out harsh penalties to any
transgressors. According to Daily NK’s sources, the move is a bid by the
authorities to strengthen punishments as traffic violations have not abated,
but rather increased, in recent years.
“The MPS has issued
nationwide its new hard-line penalization on the 4th of this month,” a source
in South Pyongan Province told the Daily NK on February 24th. “Penalties for
drunk driving, violation of traffic signals and regulations regarding
pedestrians and bicycle usage, were highly emphasized.”
According to the source, the state has ramped up traffic inspection
posts along major roads and multiplied the number of motorcycles
designed to track cars breaching traffic signals. Traffic agents constantly patrol the streets, even sweeping into the expansive labyrinth of back alleyways and sporting armbands branding their
status as inspectors ready to hand out hefty fines or revoke an individual’s driver’s license.
Drinking and driving is a predominant factor contributing to the chaotic traffic situation in North Korea and additional cause for the recent mandate. “Drunk driving is so rife in North Korea
that ‘drivers’ have become almost synonymous with ‘drunkards.’ Long-distance
drivers often drink to alleviate their stress from work, exponentially
increasing the occurrence of accidents,” he explained.
The organizational body charged with
traffic inspection has been largely ineffective due to the lack of
technological devices, namely breathalyzers, required to detect violations. Most importantly, the agency is extremely venal–money has enabled residents to
easily evade punishments for quite some time. These circumstances are exacerbated by the fact that in North Korea, beer is hardly even
considered alcohol, shelved alongside soft drinks and sold much like an equivalent product. Residents are
largely influenced by this notion and drive without regard after quaffing enough alcohol to endanger themselves and others on the road.
Bicycles are also subject to stricter
penalties as a result of the mandate; residents must stay on the right side of
the bike path or face fines of 5,000 KPW [0.63 USD], and bikes transporting more than one
person are subject to confiscation.
have expressed misgivings about the nature of these new regulations, speculating
them to be merely another means of procuring money for the authorities, especially considering cars
are generally only the privilege of Party cadres and the donju [new affluent
middle class]. Drawing on the past, they expect such reinforcements to fizzle
out just as they did after similar measures were announced last year but ultimately not strictly enforced.
“In fact, the very agents tasked
with enforcing the laws have been employing them to line their own pockets and
fostering more criticism and discontent among residents,” the source concluded.