Dandong, China — Jang Sung Taek, brother-in-law of Kim Jong Il and the Director of the Ministry of Administration of the Chosun (North Korea) Workers’ Party, has been directly overseeing a corruption inspection in the vicinity of Shinuiju since late March of this year.
A source from Shinuiju reported in a telephone interview with Daily NK on May 14th that, “Director Jang Sung Taek has been staying at the Yalu River Hotel in Shinuiju since March, and has been directing inspections at Shinuiju Customs covering imports and exports made by rail, foreign currency-making activity organizations, and trade companies belonging to the army.”
“This inspection is decidedly different in scale and scope from previous inspections which are usually carried out every spring at Shinuiju Customs and various trading companies. The inspection usually targets simple private corruption as well as all fields related to business with China,” said the source.
In North Korea the license plate number ‘2.16’ signifies that the car was given as a present by Kim Jong Il, February 16 being his birthday. Such cars, as well as cars without license plates (indicating VIPs’ cars) have been parked outside the Yalu River Hotel, and plain-clothes guards have been stationed at the hotel around the clock, informed the source.
The inspection group reportedly consists of some 100 agents dispatched from the Ministry of Administration, the Central Prosecutor’s Office, the National Security Agency, the People’s Safety Agency, and the Imports & Exports Guidance Bureau of the State External Economic Affairs Commission. Some 50 other agents were sent as reinforcements in late April.
The Inspection Revealed Smuggling and Corruption
In January of this year, an inspection group led by a cadre affiliated with the Ministry of Finance inspected foreign currency-making organizations in Shinuiju. The targets of this inspection were cadres who had conducted smuggling activities using the trade certificates of government trade enterprises, and enterprises that had issued the certificates in return for bribes.
At the time, the inspection group uncovered Chinese traders living in Shinuiju conducting individual trade using the trade certificate of government trade enterprises. The inspection group confiscated three trucks and allocated them to a Shock Brigade working on a local construction field.
The Chinese traders alerted the Chinese Embassy in Pyongyang that their trucks had been confiscated, and they tried to take back their trucks by offering bribes. They alleged that the leader of the inspection group overlooked the illegal acts of foreign currency making organizations for bribes. A high official in Pyongyang backed the Chinese traders and eventually the North Korean authorities began to investigate those involved in the inspection and other key cadres.
According to the source, the authorities eventually organized a new inspection group led by Jang Sung Taek and expanded inspections to cover those fields of trade which had been previously overlooked.
In March, Director Jang concluded the affair by negotiating with the Chinese embassy and Chinese traders, eventually making a concession to the Chinese embassy by releasing the Chinese traders from judiciary proceedings, but the confiscated trucks were not returned.
Jang Sung Taek included in the second inspection the foreign currency-making activity organizations, the Shinuiju Customs, the Center for Hygienic Prevention of Epidemics on the Shinuiju border, the Shinuiju railroad branch office, and the Shinuiju Youth Station, as well as the foreign currency making activities of the army.
The inspection group is investigating all kinds of smuggling related to China, illegal trade, and individual corruption under the slogan, “Sweep away the putrid smell of anti-socialism in Shinuiju.”
The inspection group withdrew all trade certificates with exception of those certificates belonging to the families of anti-Japanese guerilla fighters, and those certificates issued by the Ministry of Finance or the Shinuiju Municipal Administrative Committee.
Therefore, presently at Shinuiju Customs, all import items without trade certificates issued by the above mentioned three groups have to be sent back to China.
Another attempt to establish the Shinuiju Special Economic Zone
A hotel owner in Dandong, China where North Korean visitors often stay said that, “commercial traffic entering Shinuiju from Dandong has decreased by around one fourth. North Korean guests at my hotel used to send about 60 packages weighing a total of about 150kg to Shinuju every day, but now they are sending only 20 or so packages.”
Trucks crossing the Chosun (North Korea)-China Friendship Bridge which links Shinuiju and Dandong in China used to average 50 per day, but this has fallen to around 20 per day. In terms of trucks bearing North Korean license plates, there used to be about 30 trucks running back and forth across the bridge, but as of May 10 there are only around 10 trucks running.
Traders who want to send goods to North Korea are lining up to do so and even paying extra money due to the reduced truck service. North Korean authorities allow a trader to import by train 3 packages of 120kg each.
One other source from Dandong foresaw that, “ahead of opening Shinuiju as a special economic zone, North Korean authorities dispatched Jang Sung Taek, whom Kim Jong Il trusts, to carry out the preparations by conducting an inspection.” According to the source, a rumor about the upcoming attempt to establish the Shinuiju Special Economic Zone is circulating in Dandong, China these days.