A resident of Sinwon County, South Hwanghae Province, set fire to a flower wreath placed on a historic site in celebration of the 80th anniversary of Kim Jong Il’s birthday on Feb. 16, referred to in North Korea as the “Day of the Shining Star.”

The source said that Ministry of State Security officials in Sinwon County and South Hwanghae Province were alarmed by the incident because a flower wreath meant to honor Kim Jong Il was damaged on the very day of the late leader’s 80th birthday, a day to which North Korean authorities bestow great political significance.

The provincial and county-level MSS branches suspected that the fire was intentional and promptly organized an “emergency investigative team” to find the culprit. As a result, a man in his 40s, surnamed Chae, was quickly arrested by security officials for being responsible for the fire.

Kim Jong Il in his later years (Wikimedia Commons)

The source said Chae had long been dissatisfied with the North Korean regime. Chae’s father, who worked as a scientist in the State Academy of Sciences, was labeled in the 1980s as being “anti-party and anti-revolutionary” and was banished to a remote region in Sinwon County. Since elementary school, Chae had grown up hearing from others “your father is a reactionary.”

Due to his “impure” social status, Chae was unable to join the military and could not receive any college recommendations by the time of his high school graduation. As an adult, Chae worked hard with the goal of “paying for his father’s mistakes,” but eventually failed to fulfill his long-desired hope of joining the Workers’ Party of Korea.

Having been subjected to political abuse and persecution since childhood, Chae may have felt frustration and outrage at the fact that he could neither enlist in the military nor go to college due to his social status.

“Chae seems to have borne a grudge against the authorities and aimed to ‘show something’ by turning to extreme actions on the 80th anniversary of the Day of the Shining Star,” the source said. “The case is being kept tightly under wraps since it is not an ordinary case but a weighty political incident that involves subversive behavior against the regime, and may spawn formidable repercussions if news of it were to be released.

“Chae’s entire family has been arrested by the security agency after the incident,” the source continued, adding, “Due to this incident, the province’s MSS branch is expected to fully reinvestigate the ‘ideological tendencies’ of people under its surveillance within the province and intensify this surveillance going forward.”

Translated by Youngheon Kim

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Kim Chae Hwan is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. He can be contacted at dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.