Daily NK has learned that North Korean authorities held “emergency” lectures in mid-October for people living along the Chinese border about preventing the “leakage of internal information.” The authorities are reportedly trying to generate a climate of fear as rising numbers of people try to sell information to earn money.

A source in North Hamgyong Province told Daily NK on Monday that
“provincial Ministry of State Security officials in North Hamgyong Province held emergency lectures for people in border regions” and that the lectures “stressed how the leaking of internal information must be thoroughly eliminated.”

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, explained that cadres from the provincial branch of the Ministry of State Security “visited cities, counties and villages to deliver the lectures,” and that the lecturers “explained the recent international and domestic situation and said that making money by leaking internal information is emerging as a serious problem among the people.” 

The lectures also introduced cases of people who were arrested “for sending internal information or photos and videos they’d taken to South Korea after receiving dirty money from South Korean intelligence.”

Hyesan murdered
A photo of Hyesan, Yanggang Province, on North Korea’s border with China. / Image: Daily NK

The lecturers also reportedly used intimidation, telling audiences that “relaying internal information to South Korea is an act of espionage that betrays the nation” and that “if you are arrested after engaging in espionage, not only you but also your family will suffer disadvantages.”

Lecturers also stressed that people caught selling internal information “won’t be forgiven,” and that people communicating with the outside on Chinese-made mobile phones should “immediately turn themselves in.”

North Korea has long focused on instilling among its people a wariness against leaking internal information or bringing in outside information. North Korean authorities have spared no effort in stopping the trade in information, emphasizing that the use of Chinese-made mobile phones is “treason.” 

What is different this time around, however, is that the lectures stressed the seriousness of leaking information by pointing specifically to the taking of photos and videos. This suggests that the country, amid its efforts to strengthen disease control measures against COVID-19, is trying to completely stop news of adverse side effects of these measures – including the country’s economic difficulties – from spreading domestically or abroad. 

Meanwhile, the source said people have shown lukewarm responses to the lectures. 

“People are taking a serious hit to their living with the border being sealed due to COVID-19,” said the source. “Among people who now find it hard to make a living, some are saying there’s nothing they wouldn’t do if it makes them money.”

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