A view of Hamhung (Clay Gilliland, Flickr, Creative Commons)

Officials in Hamhung, South Hamgyong Province, recently conducted lectures that refocused attention on the country’s law to eradicate “reactionary thought and culture.” This suggests that North Korean authorities — aware of mounting public disaffection following protracted COVID lockdowns — are renewing efforts to ensure people are staying ideologically in line. 

According to a Daily NK source in North Hamgyong Province on Monday, the Hamhung branch of the Ministry of State Security held lectures on June 11 calling for an intense “struggle” against “anti-socialist and non-socialist behavior.”

“The lectures focused on certain articles of the law to eradicate reactionary thought and culture,” he added.

A leading cadre from the city’s Ministry of State Security branch along with a security officer went from inminban to inminban to conduct the lectures. The lecturers warned that some people “who are not yet properly aware of the law to eradicate reactionary thought and culture” were “unhesitatingly engaging in anti-socialist and non-socialist behavior.” They then proceeded to provide an in-depth explanation of the first three chapters of the law. 

The first chapter (articles 1 to 7) included the law’s mission, covering the definition of “reactionary thought and culture,” the basic principles of “eradicating reactionary thought and culture,” and the principles of the “mass struggle.”

Chapter 2 (articles 8 to 14) focused on the government’s basic message that the influx of reactionary thought and culture into the country must be stopped, as well as remarks related to the influx of thought and culture through the border and via the Internet, including publications and propaganda material from “enemy countries” like South Korea.

Chapter 3 (articles 15 to 26), meanwhile, included mention of bans on consuming or distributing reactionary thought and culture, spreading reactionary thought and culture using copiers and printers, and the use of South Korean speech, writing or song styles.

Beyond mere explanations of the law, the lecturers tried to elicit caution on the part of the audience, citing the example of a family that was arrested after they gathered to watch South Korean films amid the COVID-19 lockdowns. 

“The lecturers said some people have yet to get their heads straight and were committing grave sins before the nation and people by getting caught up in enemy psychological schemes,” said the source. “They even threatened that watching or distributing South Korean films would be branded as espionage against socialism, and that people who engage in such behavior will pay the price.”

The lecturers also explained how information is crossing in and out of the China-North Korea border region. They shared examples of people who were punished for secretly using illegal foreign-made mobile phones to receive and share information from the outside world, or to leak internal information overseas.

The source said that since the COVID-19 lockdowns, the Ministry of State Security has been intensifying surveillance and controls over the local population.

“It appears to be part of efforts to prevent people from becoming ideologically disaffected with the regime,” he said.

Translated by David Black. Edited by Robert Lauler.

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

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Lee Chae Un is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. She can be reached at dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.