As large-scale demonstrations condemning leaflets sent over the inter-Korean border have taken place in North Korea, local officials throughout the country have been conducting lectures aimed at rousing deep hostility toward defectors, Daily NK has learned. 

“Recently, there have been almost daily meetings and lectures about traitors sending propaganda leaflets from South Korea,” a Ryanggang Province-based source told Daily NK on June 15. “The speakers are going as far as mentioning specific names and making inflammatory statements about ‘punishing [defectors] in the name of the people.’”

Rumors are spreading among the people about [the authorities] sending some kind of special forces contingent to South Korea,” the source added.

HARMING THE “GREATEST DIGNITY”

Defectors are treated as traitors and turncoats in North Korea and they commonly feature in lectures for the general population. The tone used in recent lectures, however, is slightly different compared to the past, according to the source.  

“In the past, the rhetoric adopted [by the authorities] was ‘those who have left paradise on earth (North Korea) are all traitors, so they should be punished,’ but they are arguing that [actions by defectors] are harming the ‘greatest dignity’ [North Korean leader Kim Jong Un],” the source told Daily NK. “The crux of the message is that the [defectors] must be punished.” 

This approach appears to reflect the Kim Jong Un-style philosophy that if defectors do not harm the “greatest dignity,” the regime will not take issue with them. 

Contrary to North Korean media reports, most North Koreans do not routinely speak ill of defectors or refer to them as “national traitors” or “human trash.” In fact, the source told Daily NK that some North Koreans refer to defectors as part of the “Mt. Halla range,” reflecting the fact that the families of defectors tend to be well-off financially.

In fact, many North Koreans are struggling to understand why the authorities are suddenly taking issue with the propaganda leaflets, which suggests that the recent anti-South Korean demonstrations led by the government are not very persuasive. 

“In the past, a lot of propaganda leaflets came over from South Korea, but there are not so many these days. Many people wonder why [the authorities] are suddenly making such a big deal about it,” the source told Daily NK. 

“They suspect that the communist party is causing an uproar about the leaflets as a pretext for using the South Korean government to achieve some goal,” he added. 

In other words, at least some North Koreans believe that the government has a political motivation to ramp up criticism of South Korea.

Many North Koreans have also become curious about what is written on the propaganda leaflets, the source said. 

“People want to see the leaflets for themselves to find out what caused such a dramatic response from the government,” the source explained. 

While North Korean officials claim that the leaflets “are an affront to the greatest dignity and criticize our sacred nuclear weapons,” Daily NK understands that they have not publicly released any specific information about the format or content of the leaflets. 

LITTLE HOPE FOR THE FUTURE

The hard-line stance adopted by the regime towards South Korea has also dampened hopes for inter-Korean cooperation among the people, the source further reported. 

“[The government] is set to raise the atmosphere of confrontation toward South Korea for the time being,” the source said.

“[Kim] may have climbed to the top of Mt. Paekdu alongside the South Korean president [two years ago], but hopes for immediate unification already disappeared a long time ago,” he added. 

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

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Jang Seul Gi is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about her articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.