ri pyong chol
Kim Jong Un at the leadership podium during the Party Foundation Day military parade in Pyongyang on Oct. 10, 2020. / Image: KCNA

North Korea has created special prosecutorial teams to eliminate corruption, Daily NK has learned. 

The move comes amid continued criticism this year by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un of “laziness” on the part of economic cadres.

According to a Daily NK source on Monday, North Korean authorities formed the new prosecutorial teams nationwide in early August, the result of a decision by the Third Plenary Meeting of the Eighth Central Committee in June. They officially launched the teams after spending July choosing members and setting up offices.

The teams are composed of anywhere from five to 10 ordinary prosecutors and led by the deputy head of the local prosecutor’s office or a cadre prosecutor. They are currently operating throughout the country. 

Their primary mission is to wage a “fierce struggle” on law enforcement agencies (the Ministry of State Security and Ministry of Social Security), trade units, and traveling merchants who collude to embezzle state supplies or imported goods.

The authorities have in mind officials from the Ministry of State Security or Ministry of Social Security who engage in corruption of all kinds as they misuse their authority to secure funds. That is to say, by establishing a body that can keep watch over and crack down on such officials, the authorities have essentially created yet another mechanism to stop corruption.

Moreover, the teams have been tasked with busting crimes and illegal acts that interfere with the establishment of the “socialist economic management order” in economic sectors such as metallurgy, energy generation, mining and railroads and transportation, including the pillaging or illegal processing of state property. 

The teams are taking a close look into past issues with how local enterprises processed their products or carried out exports.

They are also intensively ferreting out officials from the Ministry of State Security and Ministry of Social Security who take bribes or kickbacks.

However, they are running into friction with the Ministry of State Security, a so-called “special agency.”

In fact, there was a fight early last month between a prosecutorial team in Hyesan, Yanggang Province, and officials from the counterintelligence desk of the local branch of the Ministry of State Security over the user of a Chinese-made mobile phone. The two sides apparently squared off in a turf war over who could take possession of the suspect.

In the end, the Ministry of State Security got to investigate the individual as his crime was an anti-state offence, not an economic crime.

The source said such disputes are common as law enforcement bodies such as the Ministry of State Security and prosecutors have ill-defined territories. He also said the prosecutorial teams will find that investigating corruption on the part of the Ministry of State Security – the so-called “first line of defense of the regime” – is no easy task, orders notwithstanding.

In North Korea, the prosecutor’s office includes central, provincial, city and county offices, special prosecutorial offices, and other organs. Broadly speaking, the prosecutor’s office is tasked with overseeing compliance with the law.

That is to say, it determines if state orders and decisions are legal and catches and punishes criminals and other violators of the law. Prosecutors play an important role in maintaining the North Korean regime.

However, the capabilities and roles of the Central Committee’s Organization and Guidance Department and Ministry of State Security have grown under current North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, with the status of the prosecutors falling so noticeably that people now say agents of the Ministry of State Security or Ministry of Social Security are far above prosecutors. 

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