A North Korean innkeeper in her early 50s was recently arrested for bribing local officials to ensure that her establishment did not become a facility to house suspected COVID-19 patients, Daily NK has learned. 

According to a North Hamgyong Province-based source on May 11, a large number of suspected cases of COVID-19 had occurred in the province since February, which led provincial party officials to designate the woman’s inn in Myongchong County as a place to house suspected cases of the coronavirus. 

The innkeeper, however, reportedly bribed local cadres to make sure her inn did not become such a facility. 

“Her inn is profitable and cadres from the Myongchon County party office along with local security officials have long tried to curry favor with her,” the source noted. “She was so close to local county party officials that she had the head of the local [communist party] cell replaced four times over the course of several years.” 

The woman’s actions were made more widely known after the head of the inn’s party cell (who oversees the inn as a party official) submitted a petition to the provincial party office.

After receiving the petition, the provincial party office carried out an “intensive investigation” of the inn’s owner and determined that “her behavior involved treacherous acts that hinder the party’s policies aimed at preventing the spread of infectious diseases.”

The source went on to explain that “the authorities have already issued a directive that stipulates those who do not comply with the quarantine policy will be considered traitors.”

Her behavior was more than enough to get the attention of officials given that the government is issuing orders “almost everyday” to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the source added. 

The innkeeper was ultimately arrested by agents with the Ministry of State Security (MSS), which had dispatched a prisoner transport vehicle to take her.

“The way she was taken away reminded me of people being expelled from their homes in the middle of the night,” the source told Daily NK. “When a covered truck shows up to take a person into custody, it means the arrest is not an ordinary one. She seems to have been deemed a political criminal.”

According to the source, the scandal is likely to escalate further because local party officials will be held responsible for taking bribes from the woman.

*Translated by Seongjin Park

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Jong So Yong is one of Daily NK's freelance reporters. Questions about her articles can be directed to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.