A source told Daily NK yesterday that a Ministry of State Security special inspection team arrested about 20 key figures involved in the development of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missiles on Tuesday, the day North Korea convened the Eighth Party Congress.

According to the Daily NK source, who is based in North Korea, about 20 people – including the head of the Second Research Center of the Central Committee’s Bureau 11 and other bureau researchers – were put under arrest on Tuesday on charges of possessing foreign video material such as South Korean TV programs and listening to foreign radio broadcasts.

The Central Committee’s Bureau 11 reportedly studies and analyzes nuclear weapon and missile parts imported from abroad. Based on these analyses, the bureau attempts to localize the manufacture of the parts, perfecting North Korea’s production of strategic weapons. This makes it a key organization of the Kim Jong Un era.

It appears the arrests were made in accordance with the principle that “no exceptions be made” when it comes to the consumption and distribution of foreign information. Moreover, it appears the adoption of a law against “reactionary ideology and culture” by the presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly late last year has overturned parts of even the country’s Central Committee. 

“Even young researchers who received a letter from Kim Jong Un for researching and developing indigenous cutting-edge wireless communication devices for submarines were arrested in this incident,” said the source. “They are important individuals in the country’s research into nuclear weapons and missiles, but now they’ve been reduced to hostile elements who admire the enemy because they’ve viewed material from South Choson [South Korea].”

That the arrests came just as the Eighth Party Congress convened is also noteworthy. The timing suggests that the arrests seek to instill fear among major cadres in the party, military and government.

Popular devices for consuming media in North Korea (portable media player, radio, and mp4 player.) Image: Daily NK

In fact, with word of the incident gradually spreading, everyone is surprised that the inspection targeted such a high-ranking, specialized organization.

The charges came after somebody inside Bureau 11 filed a complaint. The Organization and Guidance Department carried out a secret investigation, after which a “sudden inspection” was carried out under strict secrecy: agents from the Ministry of State Security suddenly raided the bureau’s office when people were coming to work (9 AM).

During the raid, agents found an external hard drive and several SD cards with foreign video material such as South Korean TV programs and films. In home inspections that followed, they found similar video material and even a small radio, said the source.

During intensive questioning at a Ministry of State Security detention center, one individual reportedly admitted that he “enjoyed listening to Hanminjok Radio from South Choson [South Korea] and Radio Free Asia, which are easy to understand because they are in Korean.”

The incident has thrown Bureau 11 into chaos. The bureau has begun reviewing the “party loyalties” of its entire staff, and the authorities plan to continue carrying out inspections of their offices and homes.

According to the source, this latest inspection was carried out simultaneously on party, educational and state institutions that have access to the Internet. 

The broad scale of the inspection suggests that the authorities believe similar acts have likely taken place at institutions that are outside the Ministry of State Security or Transmission Surveillance Bureau’s surveillance networks.

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.
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Jeong Tae Joo is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. He focuses on North Korean military matters. Please direct any questions about his articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.