Daily NK learned Monday that a member of the political committee of the North Korean military’s Seventh General Bureau was publicly executed in mid-May for engaging in corrupt construction practices. The Seventh General Bureau handles national construction projects.

According to a Daily NK source in Pyongyang, a 52-year-old major general on the Seventh General Bureau’s political committee by the name of Ryu was publicly executed on the riverbank of the market area of Pyongyang’s Hyongjesan District at 10 AM on May 15. The execution was carried out in front of about 3,000 people, including the bureau’s cadres, the families of soldiers, and the troops mobilized to build homes for 10,000 families in the city.

Receiving upfront investment from members of the donju (North Korea’s wealthy entrepreneurial class) over many years, Ryu reportedly enriched himself by running construction projects where people would invest in an apartment construction project first before being given the opportunity to buy an apartment later. However, he met his end by firing squad after his mistress informed the authorities about his activities. 

In terms of new apartment construction in Pyongyang, North Korean authorities have simply instructed military engineering units about how many people need to live in the buildings; they have left the rest up to military commanders. This lack of clarity has created an opportunity for military construction managers, commanders, and party officials to make money by creating more family units than originally planned through “unauthorized” changes to the internal structure of the apartments, according to the source.

Ryu, for his part, filled his pockets by colluding with members of the donju with whom he shared school and personal ties to build apartments after receiving from them investment and promises of apartment sales after the buildings were fully constructed. He apparently used the money he earned to take on several mistresses.

“Ryu had several mistresses, so many in fact that he got a separate place in Mangyongdae District’s Chukjeon-dong to meet them,” said the source. “While he was with a woman in her late 20s, another mistress in her mid-30s stopped by and discovered their relationship. Outraged, the woman in her 30s filed a complaint against Ryu with Reception Office Two of the Central Committee’s Petition Processing Department.”

Pyongyang Housing real estate prices
Apartment buildings in Pyongyang. / Image: Todd Mecklem, Creative Commons, Flickr

The woman who filed the complaint is reportedly a major investor in the Supreme Guard Command’s Dongyang Tobacco Company and is from a good family that has produced cadres for the Supreme Guard Command over the years. She had declined marriage proposals while with Ryu and felt betrayed upon learning he had other paramours. This seems to be why she resolved to report Ryu’s corruption.

The woman reportedly submitted a recorded conversation she had with Ryu to the Central Committee in which she complained she had yet to receive an apartment despite investing money and providing nighttime meals and snacks to the construction soldiers.

The Central Committee’s Discipline Inspection Department soon opened an investigation, calling the matter a “serious problem” of pursuing self-interest by going against the “Supreme Leader’s ideology of architectural aesthetics and the party’s policy of architectural politics.” Though military prosecutors could have handled the case, Ryu was arrested instead by the Discipline Inspection Department because he was a political official of the military’s party apparatus.

According to the source, the Discipline Inspection Department said the “satisfaction of self-interest” by a construction official “at the lead of the Supreme Leader’s politics of love” through abuse of his power “with no sense of duty or self-consciousness” represented a problem in his ideology. Accordingly, the department publicly tried and executed Ryu to make an example of him.

In Pyongyang, however, conspiracy theories are emerging following Ryu’s sudden execution so soon after his arrest, with whispers that he was quickly shot because he was connected to many party cadres and that many stood to lose if he opened his mouth.

Meanwhile, through the recording submitted by Ryu’s former mistress, the Discipline Inspection Department learned of corruption by commanders of construction units such as the Seventh General Bureau and Eighth General Bureau. According to the source, about 10 implicated persons were swept up and confined by the Military Security Command. 

“Within the Party, they are saying that they will carry out a broad shakeup of cadres within the military’s party apparatus in the wake of the incident,” said the source. “It seems the Justice Department of the Workers’ Party of Korea, the Military Security Command, and military prosecutors will also begin the work of digging up corruption by military cadres.”

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.
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Ha Yoon Ah is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about her articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.