With public discontent rising in North Korea due to the country’s economic difficulties, the Ministry of Social Security is focusing its complete attention on maintaining social order and stability.

According to a Daily NK source in North Korea on Monday, the State Affairs Commission — North Korea’s highest executive organ — ordered the Ministry of Social Security late last month to stop criminals “who destroy social order.”

Noteworthy is that the order called for party organizations to supplement Ministry of Social Security organs with squads composed of discharged soldiers to keep watch over people’s activities at night. It also called on party authorities to actively mobilize personnel from the paramilitary Worker-Peasant Red Guards for night time patrols.

Relatedly, the Ministry of Social Security ordered its provincial, city and county branches to bolster the size of auxiliary squads largely composed of discharged soldiers.

In fact, in the case of the ministry’s district branches and neighborhood police boxes in Chongjin, the auxiliary squads had been five to 10 men, but have now been enlarged to 15 to 20 men. That is to say, they have been supplemented with discharged soldiers between the ages of 25 and 35, as well as with ordinary young people.

Wonsan park north korean police ministry
In this undated file photograph, a group of North Korean security officers are seen at a park in Wonsan, Kangwon Province. / Image: Daily NK

However, discharged soldiers made up a considerable number of the new recruits. The ratio of discharged soldiers to ordinary young people was, generally speaking, nine to one or eight to two.

Moreover, recruits reportedly underwent strict screening during the selection process to ensure they met the authorities’ standards, with screeners looking at their military service and current circumstances. The authorities mostly chose earnest individuals who follow the rules.

The squads — commonly called ttaettu — are usually mobilized to bolster various crackdowns among ordinary people, including those involved in street commerce. Essentially, the authorities are making active use of the squads to draw public ire away from the Ministry of Social Security and Ministry of State Security.

The squads also leverage their own authority as much as they can to earn money during their crackdowns, even if it is just enough for a pack of smokes. Naturally enough, few North Koreans welcome the enlargement of these squads, the source said. 

The source further reported that most of the recently recruited squad members are trained discharged soldiers “who unconditionally followed orders in the military.” He said a growing number of locals are expressing anxiety at news of the squads growing larger, complaining that the squads will “take even more” from them.

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