Surveillance intensifies in Pyongyang in advance of Party Congress

With the preparation for the upcoming 7th
Party Congress in the beginning of May in full swing, free movement in and out
of Pyongyang has been banned. In addition, State Security Department and
Ministry of People’s Security personnel have been summoned to Pyongyang under
the pretext of “defending the Party Congress”, with their presence accompanied
by increased inspections, property searches, and a strengthening of guards for
historic sites.

Immediately following the end of
celebrations for Kim Il Sung’s birthday, preparations for the upcoming 7th
Party Congress went into full swing, a source in South Pyongan Province told
Daily NK on April 20, noting that the authorities have entirely blocked all
movement from other regions into Pyongyang, and ordered everyone who is
traveling for business or visiting relatives in the capital to return to their
homes.

Of particular note, anyone getting in
trouble with the authorities during the Congress preparation period is being
treated as a political offender and punished accordingly. “They are creating a
day-to-day atmosphere that is terrifying”, said the source. “Patrols by the
Ministry of People’s Security have teamed up with inminban [people’s units, a
type of neighborhood watch] to visit not only the houses of ordinary people,
but also hotel and motel rooms to check the identification of those staying in
temporary lodgings.”

With the goal of successfully pulling off
North Korea’s largest Party gathering to date without incident, blockades and
security have been strengthened in Pyongyang. With approximately two weeks
remaining before the big event, the degree of enforcement is being described as
unprecedented. The excessive caution can be explained by Kim Jong Un’s apparent
obsession with solidifying North Korea’s system through this event.

A conspicuous example of this is the
shifting of defense manpower from the countryside to the capital in the name of
“total defense of the Party Congress.” These personnel, who hail from every
province in North Korea, have been dispersed to watch over Pyongyang intensely.
This entails constant patrols near the bronze statues and historic landmarks,
and even patrols of the subways and parks.

Both uniformed and plainclothes Ministry of
People’s Safety officers can be found lurking near subway entrances, scanning
each passerby with intensity, according to a separate source in the capital. If anything remotely suspicious is seen, that
person is detained, and has their identity checked and their luggage searched.
In less crowded locations, State Security Department officers can be found
spending their nights on the lookout hiding in bushes or even manholes.

In the countryside, day and night security
patrols consisting of factory workers have been organized as well. Pairs of
workers on guard can be found standing like statues in front of historic
buildings. Inminban are also strengthening security around historic sites
located in their surrounding regions, with town guards alert for potential
disruptions from morning until late at night.

These measures, along with others including
thorough ideological re-investigations of the populace, are indicative of the
excessive atmosphere of strengthened enforcement and management ahead of the
Party Congress. The authorities are also issuing continuous warnings, which are
drawing displeasure from people across the country. It is not uncommon, the Pyongyang-based source said, for residents to quip, “Let’s see how many new bizarre measures
they can come up with by the time this Party Congress rolls around”. 

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