The Soil Research Institute at Hamheung Chemical Engineering University has been dissolved and all researchers and cadres associated with it dismissed. The action was apparently taken because they submitted a paper which spoke negatively of the actual condition of polluted soil in the country and measures to deal with it to the Central Committee of the Party.
A source from South Hamkyung Province revealed the news to the Daily NK last Saturday in a telephone interview, saying, “The Soil Research Institute sent a ‘party member’s letter’ to the Central Committee. After that, it was dissolved and all the researchers are now under National Security Agency (NSA) interrogation. The NSA considers this letter a politically sectarian move.”
The Soil Research Institute of Hamheung Chemical Engineering University was founded in 2002 to examine heavy metal pollution and acidification in soil and to work out measures to combat it. It is formally an institute affiliated to a university, but in practice it takes orders from the Hamheung Academy of Science.
According to sources, the institute’s leaders held a meeting with Choi Tae Bok, a secretary of international affairs, education and science of the Party, on October 20th when Choi visited Hamheung Chemical Engineering University. They submitted their paper and the letter to him.
The source noted, “The paper explains how Chinese industrial wastewater is discarded and flows into North Korean rivers in detail. Additionally, they warned that polluted materials flow into the waters because North Korean factories do not have sewage disposal plants.”
In the paper, the institute revealed, “Our country is becoming a de facto dumping ground for the Chinese,” and said that the tap water in Pyongyang is so polluted that people cannot drink it.”
Choi, who is well-acquainted with many of the professors and researchers in the university because it used to be his place of work, reportedly accepted the paper sincerely and said that he would directly forward it to the General (Kim Jong Il).
However, contrary to their expectations, the Central Committee of the Party instead handed down a decision to dissolve the institute on November 1 and told the Guidance Department of the Central Party to investigate the cadres and researchers there. Those cadres and researchers who were involved in the paper and wrote the letter personally were taken in by the South Hamkyung Province NSA.
Their suspicion being that the paper was an act of political sectarianism. Actually, when one sends a letter to the Central Committee of the Party, a cell members meeting is officially required. After making a decision in the meeting, it must be sent to the upper apparatus of the Party. However, researchers ignored this process and forwarded their letter to an official with whom they were acquainted, an act which was used to substantiate accusations of sectarianism.
Of course, the contents of the letter were also problematic. All letters sent to the Party should be admiring of the General and the Workers’ Party, but this letter contained negative information and gave advice to the Party. Central Committee officials will not have enjoyed reading it.
The source interpreted the next moves as follows, “The reason why the Central Committee moved to punish them in such an active way was that they felt fear of possible future similar actions.”
“If the Party were to let this matter pass, the number of letters of advice or expressions of people’s discontent would increase.”
He added, “Due to this case, the university has also been destabilized. Hamheung Chemical Engineering University and Hamheung Academy of Science are already targeted as the ringmasters in spreading the manufacturing process of methamphetamine. Therefore, everybody is worried that if things become more serious, anybody could become a victim of the backlash.”
He predicted, “I don’t have any idea how they will be dealt with because they irritated the Central Committee a step beyond justification. The punishment is unlikely to be light.”