North Korean authorities reiterate that expressions of dissent are ‘unforgivable’

Moon Jae In and Kim Jong Un raise joined hands during the inter-Korean summit in Pyongyang on September 19. Image: Pyongyang Press Corps Pool

The North Korean authorities have moved to suppress negative domestic views of the recent inter-Korean summit, in what appears to be an attempt to strengthen solidarity in the face of changing attitudes toward peace on the Korean Peninsula.

“Recently, the North Korean authorities have been cracking down […] and are emphasizing that they will be unforgiving toward people expressing discontent with the Party’s policies,” said a source in Ryanggang Province on October 19.

“The authorities haven’t emphasized this during special lectures; rather they have made it clear during morning meetings, evening criticism sessions and regular criticism sessions.”

“Not so long ago, some individuals were brought into the Ministry of State Security (MSS) offices and berated [for something they said],” said the source. “The MSS criticized them because they complained about how their lives were hard and had failed to support the Party during a national campaign [to improve inter-Korean relations].”

The improvement in inter-Korean relations was one of the major tasks set out by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during his New Year’s Statement. His statement emphasized that “[we] must make this meaningful year a transformative one in the history of our nation by improving inter-Korean relations.”

In accordance with this “teaching,” three inter-Korean summits have been held this year, leading to a dynamic improvement in inter-Korean relations.

However, some North Koreans have complained, with statements like, “The summits have not amounted to anything,” and, “I don’t care about the summits because life is tough,” according to a source in North Hamgyong Province.

He reported that the authorities are cracking down on negative comments regarding the improvement in relations between the two Koreas. This appears to be an attempt by the authorities to strengthen support for the regime.

The crackdown is also being carried out by the heads of each inminban, who occupy the lowest-level positions in the country’s labor administration hierarchy, which is to say that the crackdown is occurring more or less from “the ground up.”

“Most of the time people aren’t arrested for comments, but some inminban heads say that people should be careful about what they say or they’ll be taken to a political prisoners’ camp,” said the North Hamgyong Province-based source.

“Essentially, they are threatening people with being ‘disappeared’ if they say something negative.”

A separate source in Ryanggang Province added that the atmosphere is now affecting general discussions on political issues among North Koreans.

“People are saying that ‘our words are all being recorded’, and that the fear of having their words documented [by the authorities] is leading people to watch what they say,” she concluded.