A North Korean military officer has been sentenced to execution on charges of embezzling state property. The officer, a rear guard supply head in the Second Division of the First Corps, was stationed in Ipo-ri, Kumgang County, Kangwon Province.
“This high-ranking officer (between a first lieutenant and a captain in the South Korean army) sold 3.5 tons of crude oil for personal gain over the past two years. The charges were handed down from the Supreme Commander [Kim Jong Un] on February 1,” a source in Kangwon Province said during a telephone call with Daily NK on February 8.
Increasing international sanctions are placing limits on the import of various crude oil products into the country. This may affect the operational capacity of the army, which the regime relies on to maintain power. The severe punishment is thought to signal the regime’s awareness of this dynamic.
According to the source, if oil supplies become unreliable, much of the nation’s heavy military hardware would become useless as practical tools of warfare. Armored cars, naval vessels, gun carriages, and combat planes require diesel and other forms of fuel. Furthermore, if the military is unable to maintain its supply lines, the infantry will suffer shortages and be rendered ineffective.
Some believe that the accused officer is a scapegoat. High ranking cadres, who were likely receiving a cut of the oil sales in the form of bribes, may have offered the officer to save themselves from punishment.
Asked about this, the source said, “This officer was selling oil and pocketing the money for two years. That’s a long time. It’s unthinkable that he could have pulled it off by himself. It seems like he trusted senior cadres, and then became a victim of that trust.”
The North Korean authorities have taken countermeasures to prevent similar incidents in future. “The Korean People’s Army (KPA) convened an emergency meeting. An order was handed down calling for increased controls and monitoring of the entire army’s oil supplies,” the source explained.
A separate source in Kangwon Province said that it is not known whether the officer has been executed yet, but that “since the world’s attention is on North Korea, it is likely that the execution was carried out in secret.”
As previously reported by Daily NK, the North Korean authorities have since December 2016 been refraining from the conduct of public trials and executions following a probe into human rights abuses perpetrated by the Ministry of State Security.