Under the guidance of Director of the Ministry of Administration of the Chosun (North Korea) Workers’ Party Jang Sung Taek, brother-in-law of Kim Jong Il, the inspection of Shinuiju, which began in March and has lasted more than four months, was reportedly completed in mid-July.
A source from Shinuiju said in an interview with the Daily NK on the 29th, “The public executions of 14 people suspected of corruption, which was uncovered during the inspection process, was done in order to finish up the inspection. Those killed were charged with receiving funds from the South Korean National Intelligence Service (NIS), for leaking national secrets, opening accounts in China, and accumulating private wealth.”
The source said, “The public executions took place in Shinuiju and Yeomjoo at the same time on the morning of July 17th. Executions took place immediately after the trials and 30 shots were fired into each person.”
Since last year, the North Korean authorities have been firing tens of random shots at the corruption suspects in order to increase the propagandistic effect among the average civilians watching the trials.
The source said, “Those who were executed were officials of the Trade Business Office in China and people who had engaged in trade with China in Shinuiiu and Yeomjoo. The authorities announced that in Yeomjoo, those who used to gather and sell marine products to China were linked to the NIS and were accused of selling national intelligence and accumulating two million Yuan (approximately USD297,000) in Chinese banks as private assets.”
He added, “The deceased also had guardians among high Party officials in Pyongyang who had turned a blind-eye and protected them. However, not even one high-level official was exposed during the inspections.”
The inspection in Shinuiju was drawn-out in length compared to the common “inspections by the Central Committee of the Party,” with the targets wide-ranging. In particular, it was confirmed that Jang Sung Taek himself stayed in Shinuiju and led an intensive inspection of China-North Korea traders. Even after the departure of his inspection team, additional inspections of governmental organizations and average civilians have continued since the latter half of May, according to Kim Jong Il’s instructions.
The intensive inspection of Shinuiju, in which over 70% of Chinese-North Korean commercial traffic occurs, caused several aftereffects inside North Korea: commercial traffic passing through Shinuiju and Dandong decreased by half compared to the past, and the aftermath of the inspections in Shinuiju added fuel to the fire of price rises in jangmadang goods across the country.
For instance, sugar, which is a raw material for doughnuts or candies that are consumed the most by average civilians in the jangmadang, carried a price of around 1,500 won per kilogram before the inspections, but in mid-May, it rose to 2,100 won and vegetable oil hiked from 5,500 to 7,500 won per kilogram. Such an increase in prices also caused a significant threat to the survival of citizens who made a living off the jangmadang trade.
But the final result of the evaluation of the Shinuiju inspection, which caused quite a stir externally, has purportedly been negligible.
The source said, “The volume of trade has decreased over several months and the number of visitors to China has also been reduced by half. The results of the inspection have not produced too much difference, except for the execution of 14 corrupt officials.”
The source further noted, “The only change which has been visible to the eye is the rise in the cost of bribes offered to North Korean customs from 40 to 80 dollars per hundred kilograms of goods. There was a rumor that the loading volume carried into the North would be fixed at 120kg, from 360kg, but this has not been done yet.”
One Chinese emigrant engaged in trade between North Korea and China in Dandong said, “The inspection of Shinuiju, due to the increase in food prices and the inevitable food crisis, did not yield many results. If trading was to cease immediately, the functioning factories will also be disrupted. Can Shinuiju be realistically shut down?”
One South Korean expert on North Korea who visited Shenyang in China recently gave this analysis, “The recent inspection tried to cause a threat to Shinuiju, the window of the North Korea-China trade, regulate markets in North Korea as a whole, and check the corruption of officials involved in trade.”
He emphasized, “North Korea-China trade through Shinuiju has an important role for the North Korean citizens’ economy. The results of the Shinuiju inspections demonstrate that the North Korean authorities cannot arbitrarily change the means of citizen survival, which have evolved over time.