Kim Jong Un watching the test launch of a Hwasong-14 ICBM on July 27.
Image: Korean Central News Agency (KCNA)
The North Korean authorities are still celebrating the successful launch of the Hwasong-14 ICBM on July 27. The regime has been heralding the event through state media with claims that the isolated nation is now a ‘global rocket power’ and that residents are jubilant. However, inside sources report that few residents are welcoming the news.
The authorities have mobilized teams of locals to celebrate the success of its missile launches, but many of the mobilized residents are secretly critical of the regime.
“Following the news that the regime launched missiles twice in July, locals are criticizing the regime, asking, ‘Where did it get the money?’ They are feeling increasingly disillusioned by the Kim Jong Un regime which spends more money on developing missiles than improving their livelihoods,” a source in North Pyongan Province told Daily NK on August 1.
“Everyone is aware that whenever the regime launches a missile, economic sanctions will follow. There’s nothing to celebrate for the ordinary citizens. In the beginning, the residents were proud of the regime openly opposing the US with nuclear development and missiles, but these days, anti-US sentiment has weakened while respect for the regime has plummeted.”
According to the source, most residents who are mobilized for state-enterprise lectures to celebrate the successful launch are concerned about increasing sanctions and international isolation. In addition, many are expecting that they will suffer as long as the regime maintains its belligerence.
“The Ministry of State Security [MSS] responded sensitively after a celebratory event for a successful missile launch was held in the past. Last year, a resident in North Pyongan Province was investigated by the MSS because they carelessly said that, ‘The world powers already had missiles in late 1950, but we’ve just started to develop them,’ while drinking,” a separate source in North Pyongan Province said.
“People are still starving and there are homeless orphans on the streets, so naturally, the residents are resentful about having to celebrate a missile launch. They are also wary of the increased mandatory payments to the inminban (people’s unit, a form of neighborhood watch) units that are sure to follow,” she added. While such payments are said to be for ‘construction projects,’ it is widely understood that they are used to support the country’s nuclear and missile development.
In particular, as North Korea has publicly refuted media reports from South Korea that, ‘North Korea wasted several years of food provision funds on developing missiles,’ disgruntlement amongst the residents has risen.
“The authorities do not publish the costs of nuclear and missile development, but seeing the reports of the Rodong Sinmun, people assume that the test would have cost hundreds of millions of dollars,” she explained.
Nevertheless, there are also some residents who genuinely feel proud, thinking that North Korea has become a nuclear power. Such individuals primarily reside in rural areas where external information is rare. Some residents in rural regions believe regime propaganda with almost fanatical devotion.
In regards to this, a high-ranking North Korean defector said on condition of anonymity, “Stubborn rural folk believe the regime’s propaganda. North Korea’s strategy is to block information and keep its people ignorant, so South Korea and the international community must continuously seek new ways to communicate with the North Korean people.”