Daily NK has learned that security officials recently carried out a crackdown on photo studios in downtown Chongjin, seizing equipment such as computers and printers, as part of efforts to eliminate the printing and distribution of illegal publications.

A source in North Hamgyong Province told Daily NK on Thursday that agents from the provincial branch of the Ministry of State Security launched the crackdown late last month. The agents seized all devices or items they deemed inappropriate, such as printers.

According to the source, the ministry carried out the search of photo studios as part of a crackdown during the so-called “80-day battle.” The goal was to eliminate people from passing around USBs containing foreign films and TV programs, and ensure people did not print or distribute textbooks and party materials without permission from the authorities. 

“It’s true that photo studios have drawn the attention of security officials with a growing number of people, including students, recently seeking them out to print textbooks and other required reading materials, as these are in short supply,” said the source. “The Ministry of State Security raided the photo studios this time because they’d already detected that [these studios] are printing not only books students need, but also foreign publications people aren’t supposed to read so they can make money on the sly.” 

Musan County, North Hamgyong Province residence
Musan County, North Hamgyong Province. / Image: Daily NK

The Ministry of State Security agents that raided the studios in the Chongjin’s Sunam District reportedly declared all printers and computers not registered with the state “illegal” and seized them. According to the source, the agents threatened the studio operators, telling them that “since all the confiscated devices and items now belong to the state, don’t even think about getting them back.”

The source told Daily NK that ministry officials are questioning studio operators and claiming that they had declared at a previous time that the printing and publishing of textbooks and other reading material at photo studios is illegal. The source said the ministry may hand out fines or other punishments to the operators when the interrogations are over. 

The source added that the ministry has also decided to “forcefully expel” these studio operators from the August 3 Management Committees or Convenience Facility Management Committees in the districts where they are registered as part of efforts to “completely suspend their operations.” 

The crackdown on photo studios appears to be related to a new law banning “reactionary thought” that was passed during a Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly. In short, the authorities appear to consider the printing of various materials, including foreign books, as an act of “bringing in and distributing anti-socialist ideology and culture.”

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Jong So Yong is one of Daily NK's freelance reporters. Questions about her articles can be directed to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.