Daily NK understands that the authorities in some areas of North Korea have stopped conveying orders through inminban (people’s unit) circulars. Instead, every five households are selecting a person to relay government orders to locals. 

A source in Yanggang Province told Daily NK on Tuesday that the authorities adopted the new system in Hyesan from Dec. 1. He said every five households selects a single individual to go around to each home to verbally relay orders and tasks from the authorities as they are conveyed through the inminban.

According to the source, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, inminban meetings were held at least five times a month. These meetings conveyed policies and instructions from the authorities. During months with many such meetings, the inminban sent a circular to each home, with households signing the circulars to verify they read them.

From last year, however, the authorities began to convey orders primarily through the circular for quarantine reasons. Meetings were sometimes if rarely held if the authorities had an especially important order to relay.

From February, the head of the inminban had to submit the signed circular to the head of the neighborhood office the very day it went out.

This was essentially a mechanism to prevent internal information – namely, party orders and policies as contained in the circular – from leaking to the outside world.

Hyesan, Ryanggang Province in August 2018
Apartments can be seen in Hyesan, Yanggang Province in this August 2018 photo. / Image: Daily NK

However, authorities adopted the latest method of communication after concluding that material contained in circulars issued in regions along the Sino-North Korean border was continuing to leak abroad.

Relatedly, the people’s committee of Yanggang Province convened an emergency meeting of neighborhood office heads in late October, during which the committee ordered a suspension of the circulars, replacing them with the system of every five families selecting a person to convey orders from the inminban.

One inminban in Hyesan moved very quickly to respond, immediately selecting the individuals. The source said the authorities have essentially revived the old “five families responsibility system,” albeit in a new form.

Adopted in 1958, the “five families responsibility system” grouped households into units of five, with one fervent party member among them chosen to observe the other four families. This means the authorities will learn every move the people make, from their daily lives to their ideological tendencies.

The source said the authorities want to completely block what they believe to be increasingly frequent leaks of information to the outside world. They also seemingly intend to more closely scrutinize the ideological tendencies of residents, he added.

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