Rumors are circulating in North Korea that the authorities will be issuing new identification cards from the middle of next month as a related investigation draws to an end, report sources in the country.
“The final stages of an investigation into the issuance of new identification cards has recently been completed,” said a North Hamgyong Province-based source on August 1. “The government is rumored to have said that the reissuance of cards will likely begin in mid-August.”
The source also reported that the investigation into reissuing the cards has been ongoing for several years, but was delayed for some time for unknown reasons before restarting. Local police have been conducting the investigation through local district offices without mentioning any specific reasons for the investigation.
“The local police offices in each region have re-investigated the residential status of constituents through local district offices,” she explained, adding that the heads of neighborhood watch organizations, or “inminban,” have been checking the number of people in each family within their districts together with the resident directors.
“The investigators recorded cases where a family member had died or was actively serving in the military or economy-related ‘shock troops,’” the source said. “There are mixed rumors spreading among the population because the authorities have just been conducting the investigation without specifically mentioning the possible re-issuance of resident cards.”
According to a source in Ryanggang Province, North Korea plans to institute a fingerprint identification system following the digitization of all resident cards, and there are hopes among the people that the new system will help address a number of different issues, including theft and accidents.
Some are also suggesting that the reissuance of the cards could be an attempt by the state to weed out “impure elements” within the population who have committed acts that are considered “anti-state.”
“There was a rumor that started several years ago saying that the cards would be reissued,” the Ryanggang-based source said.
“People went to the local police station in their district to get their fingerprints recorded. The investigation may have been delayed because of issues with the digitization of the prints. Now that electricity is flowing regularly and the electronic system has developed, the biometric approach may now be possible.”
North Korean citizens receive resident identification cards at the age of 17. The first cards were issued on September 1, 1946, and then reissued in 1953, 1958, 1964, 1974, 1984, 1999, and 2004. North Korea was reportedly planning to create a digital database and issue plastic cards in the early 2000s, but these efforts failed due to an apparent lack of state funds.