North Korean soldiers reprimanded for election day brawl

North Koreans participate in the 2019 Supreme People's Assembly elections
North Koreans participate in the 2019 Supreme People’s Assembly elections. Image: Rodong Sinmun

Several high-ranking soldiers received disciplinary action for engaging in a physical fight with civilians during North Korea’s recent rubber-stamp parliament elections, local sources report.

For all politically important events in North Korea, the country’s authorities exercise tight surveillance and restricted mobility ahead of and during the event to hedge against even the slightest disruption.

However, Daily NK reported in December that despite strict conduct guidelines for surveillance handed down during the memorial period marking seven years since Kim Jong Il’s death on December 17, a large fight in North Hamgyong Province disrupted the designated week of remembrance.

“Soldiers serving under the General Staff Operations Bureau [GSOB] Seventh Department got into an altercation with some university students at a restaurant in the Pyongchon district of Pyongyang,” a source in the capital told Daily NK.

“What started out as a verbal dispute quickly escalated into a violent fight until the police came to break it up. The university students’ behavior was especially shocking. They were throwing punches wildly, unfazed by the fact that they were hitting high-ranked military officials during an election.”

Three high-ranking members of the Seventh Department, including a company commander and a platoon commander, were implicated in the event. Two have been demoted and one will spend six months serving in a military detention facility. When asked about the fate of the university students involved, the source said he was “unaware of any punishment leveled against them or even if a related trial happened at all.”