countryside, rural
A rural area of South Pyongan Province (Daily NK)

A resident of Pyongwon County, South Pyongan Province, was arrested by a North Korean task force charged with policing anti-socialist behavior for the unauthorized production and sale of alcohol during the busy business season in early April.

The Day of Pure Brightness, the fifth of Korea’s traditional farming holidays, falls on Apr. 5, and the Day of the Sun, Kim Il Sung’s birthday and North Korea’s most important holiday, falls on Apr. 15.

A source in South Pyongan Province told Daily NK on Apr. 25 that a collective farm worker surnamed Kim in Yanghwa Village, Pyongwon County, was arrested on Apr. 4 by the anti-socialist task force. Kim had apparently been providing restaurants in town with a large amount of alcohol, including beer and rice wine, that he had prepared himself for the Day of Pure Brightness and the Day of the Sun.

Individual bootleggers reportedly produced and sold alcohol with the expectation of brisk alcohol sales in early to mid-April, given the holidays that happen around that time.

One of those bootleggers was Kim, the collective farm worker, who had become notorious for producing a huge amount of alcohol for distribution at various purveyors of alcohol in the county. On Apr. 4, he was loading alcohol onto shelves when he was apprehended by the anti-socialist task force, the source told Daily NK.

In a subsequent raid of Kim’s house, the task force found and confiscated all the rice wine and beer that was pending delivery. The authorities also reportedly seized two tons of corn that Kim had bought and stored as a raw material for bootlegging alcohol.

In their investigation, the authorities learned that Kim had begun bootlegging in order to support his son, who had become malnourished in the army. The son eventually came down with tuberculosis and was given a hardship discharge. Kim gradually increased the scale of his bootlegging because he needed more money to cover his son’s treatment.

“This was a very hard-working man. He would diligently perform his duties on the farm during the daytime and then brew alcohol and feed the pigs in the evening to keep his family financially stable. He also had a good reputation with the other workers on the farm, who depended on him financially,” the source explained.

But the unauthorized production of alcohol is strictly forbidden as a waste of grain in North Korea, which faces chronic food shortages.

The North Korean government regards such bootlegging as a form of treason and prosecutes the unauthorized production and sale of alcohol while reminding the public of the ban with proclamations released each year. The crime has been treated even more severely in recent years since the food crisis has grown more severe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The anti-socialist task force punished this individual as a ringleader of anti-socialist behavior and denounced his behavior as ‘serious treason,’ since he was turning grain into moonshine at a time when people are starving to death for lack of grain,” the source said.

The North Korean authorities reportedly handed over the alcohol they had confiscated from Kim to state-run grocery stores and transported the two tons of corn to a state-run food management facility.

Translated by David Carruth. Edited by Robert Lauler.

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Jong So Yong is one of Daily NK's freelance reporters. Questions about her articles can be directed to