North Korea’s Ministry of State Security (MSS) has recently intensified lectures aimed at encouraging North Koreans to turn in spies following the arrest of an alleged spy in June, Daily NK has learned.

The June spy incident involved a money broker who allegedly spied for South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS). Two local MSS officials, including the head of the local MSS office, were relieved from their duties after it was revealed they had accepted bribes from the broker. 

Daily NK sources now say that the incident has led to an increase in lectures aimed at encouraging North Koreans to report strange behavior. 

“Through its lectures, the MSS has told people that there are spies here who leak internal information to South Chosun (South Korea),” a source in North Hamgyong Province told Daily NK on Thursday. “MSS officials have emphasized multiple times that if we come across any ‘anti-revolutionary elements’ we are to report them immediately.”

Daily NK sources also added that a MSS lecturer spent an unprecedented three hours at a single factory lecturing about the guidelines. MSS lecturers tend to spend much less time at individual lecture sites, suggesting that the MSS is engaged in an operation to root out suspected information leakers. 

During the lectures, MSS officials have also made attendees copy down all the guidelines concerning information leaks. 

Daily NK sources say that the guidelines include warnings that there are “spies among us” and that these spies may be “trusted neighbors or friends.” The guidelines demand that North Koreans “always be alert” and to examine their “surroundings and remain suspicious” toward everything. The guidelines further encourage people to “immediately report” any strange behavior, even if the context of the behavior is unclear.

North Korea periodically punishes ordinary North Koreans and even government officials for leaking “internal information” abroad. 

For example, a government official in North Hamgyong Province was arrested last year on spying charges for accepting payment in exchange for photographs and videos of local markets. Anyone found filming and distributing footage from inside North Korea is considered a spy and faces at least five years in a forced labor camp or political prisoner camp. 

Immediately after the incident, the MSS held lectures for the local population focused on how to identify and report spies. 

Ultimately, North Koreans who have attended the lectures are being extra cautious and refraining from making international calls to South Korea or China, Daily NK sources reported. 

“People are fearful after attending the MSS lectures,” one Daily NK source confirmed. “Even if you aren’t guilty of espionage, there’s a lot of anxiety because everyone is watching each other and you may get reported if you exhibit what can be called strange behavior.”

*Translated by Violet Kim

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