Security officials in South Hamgyong Province arrested a family travelling northwards by car last month and have detained them until they pay a USD 300 bribe, Daily NK has learned from a source in the province. 

A third-generation Korean-Japanese man surnamed Jin was traveling with his family on personal business when his car was stopped by a Ministry of People’s Safety (MPS) checkpoint in Bukchong, South Hamgyong Province. Jin and his family had been travelling northwards after leaving their home in the Donghungsan District of Hamhung. 

The checkpoint’s officers determined it was suspicious for an entire family to be driving northwards and reported the family to the local MSS office in Bukchong. MSS officials summoned to the checkpoint detained the family and accused them of heading to Ryanggang Province so they could escape from North Korea.

Jin and his family denied the allegations and the security officers were unable to find any clear evidence in support of their accusations. It was only when the MSS officials examined the license and vehicle log of Jin’s car that they discovered a routine stamp from the local police station for the month of May was missing. They used this along with other pieces of circumstantial evidence to try and force the family to write letters of self-criticism and a “case report.” 

Jin reportedly demanded to be taken to the police station and have officers there decide on his punishment for having failed to receive the stamp. MSS officials responded by further intimidating Jin, claiming he was “challenging the law.”

When threats and intimidation failed to have any effect [in eliciting a confession], MSS officials demanded a payment of USD 300,” the source told Daily NK. 

“The MSS these days are worried about meeting their quota of foreign currency earnings for the first half of the year, which they must collect by June,” the source continued, adding, “They [seem to be] focusing on people who have money to meet their quotas.” 

Jin and his family are currently lodged in a local motel, exhausting all available options – even contacting their relatives – to pool together USD 300. 

“The vehicle they were traveling in was impounded and is currently sitting in the front of the [local] MSS building,” the source told Daily NK. “The family has been told they won’t be able to go to their original destination even after paying the USD 300 bribe, but they will be allowed to return to their home in Hamhung.”

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Lee Sang Yong is editor-in-chief of Daily NK and previously spent a number of years working as one of the publication’s foreign correspondents in China. He can be reached at