North Korean officials abuse power to secure retirement

North Korean soldiers in Sinuiju, North Pyongan Province / Image=Daily NK

Reports suggest that senior North Korean officials are engaging in a new method to ensure financial security following their retirement. The practice involves grooming specific individuals to whom the retiring officials plan to hand over their positions, with the tacit understanding that bribes will continue to be paid into the future by the promoted individual.

“Recently, officials have been discreetly passing down their power to loyal youngsters who are taken in under their wings. They are trying to secure their own family’s future and prepare for retirement through this transfer of power,” a North Hamgyong-based source explained during a telephone call to Daily NK on June 20.

“Officials these days are concerned that they will not be able to support themselves for long once they leave office, regardless of how much wealth they have amassed. They think it will be difficult to make ends meet after they retire and lose their stream of income from bribes.”

According to the source, it was military officials who first came to realize that because most people are making their living through the market these days, those individuals without business or trading interests would find it more difficult to make ends meet during retirement.

“When they return to society, they have to buy everything from a home to household goods. It’s obvious that they are taking measures to avoid hardship, because they don’t have connections or business skills,” he said.

The Ministry of State Security, which is known for accepting bribes from residents, is also reportedly engaging in these practices. “They also fear a world where work is more important than status in terms of earning a living,” a source in Ryanggang Province said.

Several years before retirement, one particular official of a provincial security agency allegedly selected a trustworthy individual, who was of good songbun and a member of the Workers’ Party, and provided support for him to climb up the ladder.

“When this official retires, the younger individual will inherit his position. An agreement was made to secure a source of income for retirement. Setting up these types of ‘special relationships’ has become a trend,” the  Ryanggang-based source said.

However, she added that disapproval amongst North Korean residents towards the increasing levels of corruption in the country has grown even more and there are also criticisms of the failing social system.

“The residents are criticizing these practices by referring to them as ‘adoptee grooming by officials.’ Even though there’s a system to take care of the elderly, it’s only enough money for one kilogram of rice per month, which is why people are using any means necessary to secure retirement funds. The state has forced these people into making such choices,” she said in her assessment of the situation.

Article 74 of North Korea’s Labor Law stipulates, “The state grants elderly pensions to male workers who have reached the age of 60 and female workers who have reached the age of 55, when they have accrued a certain number of years of labor service.”

However, it has been pointed out that the pension is meager, as it is calculated according to the official state salary (about 3,000 KPW per month, or 0.38 USD).

Kim Yoo Jin is one of Daily NK's freelance journalists. Please direct any questions about his articles to