North Korea rounds up people with “unclear residence”

Women rounded up while engaged in business activities outside their areas of residence are begging to go home, a source told Daily NK

North Korea’s Ministry of Social Security was recently ordered by the central government to round up anyone with “unclear residence” by Oct. 10, a source in North Hamgyong Province told Daily NK yesterday.

The source, who requested anonymity, said that there are an increasing number of people who have sold their houses due to financial difficulties and are “wandering around” homeless. He noted there has also been an increase of people who have simply left their homes and are now living in the houses of relatives located outside of their registered places of residence. Both types of people are potential targets for the round up.

There are even cases of women originally from Pyongyang who, having failed to adapt to life outside of the city, divorced their husbands and returned to the capital to live with relatives, the source said. According to him, the women “have no jobs” and are not involved in “organizational life” (events and activities the government requires all citizens to participate in for ideological purposes).

In this undated photo, an elderly North Korean man is seen sitting in Pyongyang. / Image: Daily NK

North Korean authorities reportedly ordered the Ministry of Social Security to ignore “personal circumstances” and simply “deal with” all these people in the name of “maintaining social order.” According to the source, the agency, which serves as North Korea’s national police force and was recently renamed, has been directed to send anyone “disobeying orders” between the ages 17 to 65 to to forced labor camps.

“As part of efforts to carry out the government’s order, the Ministry of Social Security is conducting an investigation through local inminban to [identify problematic people] while making full-fledged efforts to round up homeless people and others who are ‘wandering’ near cities,” the source said, using a term referring to North Korea’s lowest administrative unit.

The agency is reportedly conducting “special crackdowns” on people wandering in the interior of the country – including the provinces of Kangwon, South Hamgyong and North Hamgyong – and placing them in forced labor camps. There are so many people who have been sent to one forced labor camp in North Hamgyong Province that there is not enough space in the facility, according to the source.

According to him, there are many women in the labor camp who are begging to be sent home after they were arrested while engaged in business activities in areas outside of their official areas of residence.

“The labor camp’s authorities are busy trying to deal with the sudden increase in people being brought in,” the source said, adding, “Some camp managers are using the opportunity to take bribes in exchange for reducing the number of months prisoners have to stay in the camps.”

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Jong So Yong is one of Daily NK's freelance reporters. Questions about her articles can be directed to