North Korean man in border region arrested for using South Korean dialect

View of Hyesan City, Ryanggang Province.
View of Hyesan City, Ryanggang Province. Image: Daily NK

North Korea’s Pochon County state security department arrested a man in his thirties for “speaking in a South Korean manner” while purchasing cigarettes at a local market.

However, Daily NK sources report that the county state security department’s accusation is ungrounded and in fact, the man’s accent is not distinctly South Korean.

“At least some local residents believe that the accusation was used as a convenient excuse to arrest him,” a source in Ryanggang Province told Daily NK.

“The county state security department justified the arrest stating that the outcome of the investigation revealed that his family is in South Korea and at the time of the arrest, the man was carrying a large sum of cash: 25,000 RMB.”

However, local residents believe that the state security department was already well aware that he was frequently in contact with family members and was looking for a way to legitimize the arrest.

“Regarding the incident, there are already many rumors spreading among locals. They’re asking why he would carry such a large sum of money on an ordinary day and speak in a strong South Korean dialect just by watching Korean dramas. The state security got the wrong person,” a separate source in Ryanggang Province reported.

“It was reported that there was an attempt to bomb the leader’s statue in Hyesan and some individuals who were allegedly gathering information and sensitive materials to send to South Korea were also arrested by the State Security Department. It seems like something is up. The behavior from the department is too intense and disturbing these days.”

The North Korean authorities have tightened surveillance along the Chinese border. They are highly sensitive not only in regards to illegal river crossings and defections, but also toward any communication between residents and the outside world.

In May, the vice director of the State Security Department of Pochon County, Ryanggang Province personally delivered a lecture to residents, criticizing those who make illicit phone calls to the outside world–calling them counter-revolutionary acts— and instructing them to increase their monitoring and reporting activities.

As it is highly unusual for such a senior official from the security apparatus to personally lecture residents, it shows just how serious the North Korean authorities are taking the issue of information leakage.

If the authorities catch someone disclosing internal information and materials to the outside world, they can be strictly punished under Article 63 of the penal code “treason against the homeland,” and Article 68 “treason against the people,” or Article 222 “illegal international communication.” The death penalty can apply if an individual is convicted of a crime against the state or against the people.