A North Korean man in his 40s is reportedly under investigation by the Ministry of State Security for turning over internal analyses from his workplace to a Chinese trader, Daily NK has learned. 

The internal analyses the man gave to the trader reportedly concerned technology used to develop North Korean-style cosmetics. There is speculation that he will be sent to a political prison camp for espionage.

A source in North Pyongan Province told the Daily NK on Tuesday that the man “worked as a department head in the cosmetics research center of the Sinuiju Cosmetics Factory” and “was arrested after he turned over cosmetics development technology to a Chinese trader at the Sinuiju border.” 

The man had given the Chinese trader two memory chips containing data on the technology with help from the head of a border patrol guard post, the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Daily NK. He was arrested by the Ministry of State Security after his border patrol accomplice turned him in.

According to the source, the man met the head of the border patrol post while staying at a relative’s house in the seaside town of Yongchon. He reportedly told the border guard that “all you need to do is simply hand over a letter to the Chinese trader at an arranged time as you conduct patrols in your boat during the evening.” 

Sinuiju apartments organization
From a vantage point in China, apartments can be seen being built in Sinuiju’s Ponbu District. / Image: Daily NK

Accepting the proposal, the border guard used a flashlight to signal the Chinese trader. Making contact, he was mindlessly handing over the letter when – as the trader looked on – he opened it out of curiosity and found two memory chips wrapped in several layers of paper inside.

Believing the memory chips contained important data, the border guard refused to turn them over to the Chinese trader. The guard reportedly ended his protests when the Chinese trader produced a big wad of cash, which he accepted on the spot.

Things ultimately went sideways when the man approached the border guard again several days later and asked him to hand over just one more letter. Already feeling something was off, the border guard opened the letter and, just like before, found that there were two memory chips inside.

Judging this to be a clear act of espionage, the border guard confessed to his superior how he had previously handed over memory chips to the Chinese trader. He turned over the new memory chips he was supposed to transfer to the trader, along with the money he had received.

“It was determined that the memory chips contained analyses of cosmetic water quality purification and synthetic chemistry experiments for chemical isotopes that had been put together at the Sinuiju Cosmetics Factory,” the source said. “The man was arrested right away and is currently undergoing a preliminary examination.” 

Preliminary examinations include the entire interrogation process prior to suspects being indicted.

The source said the case is making especially big waves as the man is a brilliant mind who graduated with top grades from the biology department of prestigious Kim Il Sung University. The new technology was apparently based on his own idea. 

“Among locals, there’s a rumor going around that this man is a spy for South Korean intelligence,” said the source. “They also say it’s likely he’ll go to a political prison camp.”

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

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Kim Yoo Jin is one of Daily NK's freelance journalists. Please direct any questions about his articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.