A married couple involved in the illegal sale of houses in North Korea was arrested for the crime of “conduct that does not belong in a socialist society” and put on a public trial, Daily NK has learned. 

The decision to hold a public trial for those committing “anti-socialist acts” can be viewed as an attempt by North Korean authorities to instill fear in the public, motivated by a sense of crisis over the encroach of capitalist tendencies in the country.

“A large number of people gathered in the stadium at Ri Je Sun Sariwon Normal University in North Hwanghae Province on June 21 to watch the public trial of the couple, who are both in their 50s,” a source in North Hwanghae Province told Daily NK on July 14. “The husband and wife were on trial for purchasing land to build a house of their own and even using the services of a housekeeper.” 

According to the source, the couple had been engaged in illegal house sales for close to ten years and were widely known among the people as brokers who helped to facilitate real estate transactions between individuals.

A number of anti-socialist crimes the couple had allegedly committed were brought up during the trial, including illegally buying and selling state-owned houses to amass wealth over a long period of time; conspiring with employees of national agencies to conduct real estate transactions and build a large house; and, employing the services of a housekeeper. 

Recently, the couple also leased a plot of state-owned land at a nearby farm and began their own farming operation, hiring jobless locals as day-workers. This was also deemed to be anti-socialist conduct. 

North Korean judicial authorities reportedly denounced the couple’s behavior as “the actions of someone dreaming about being a landowner in days gone by“ and “an act that destroys [our] socialist society in which everyone is well off,” adding that “the exploitative nature [of the crimes] means we cannot treat this lightly.”

The couple were hauled in to the local police station [Ministry of Social Security office] on June 9, and brought to trial less than two weeks later on June 21,” the source said, adding. “Once the trial had finished, the judge simply ordered the couple to be arrested, at which point they were promptly handcuffed and loaded into a vehicle.” 

The couple were taken back to the police station without having their sentence read out, and it remains to be seen what kind of punishment they will receive.

“There are a lot of people in Sariwon who conduct business and handle large sums of money, so they are shaking in their boots after this incident – especially those who live in large houses and employ housekeepers like the arrested couple,” the source said.

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Jong So Yong is one of Daily NK's freelance reporters. Questions about her articles can be directed to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.