Three officials belonging to the Ministry of State Security (MSS) office in Musan County, North Hamgyong Province, were dismissed and their assets confiscated on charges of misconduct in early July, Daily NK learned recently. 

“In early July, the head of the anti-espionage division of the MSS office in Musan County, the head of the 617 Division [a department in charge of cracking down on illegal drugs], and the MSS chief in charge of the Musan Mine were all dismissed as a result of inspections carried out by the MSS,” a North Hamgyong Province-based source told Daily NK over the phone on Tuesday. “Unlike with previous cases, the government even confiscated the cars of these officials, which generated a lot of interest among local residents.

“[The three officials] were initially meant to arrested when the inspections first began in the spring, but they were ultimately arrested in early July,” the source continued, adding, “The authorities probably needed more time because their illegal accumulation of assets was bigger than they had previously estimated.” 

According to the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, all three of these high-level officials wielded great power within the county. 

Regarding the MSS official in charge of the Musan Mine, the source believes this official’s main fault lies with the profits he made through foreign currency-earning business activities. 

Moreover, the head of the 617 Division is said to have used his power to receive large amounts of bribes from criminals and their families who were involved in illegal drug cases. 

A vegetable plot in Musan County, North Hamgyong Province. / Image: Daily NK

There is even talk about a large amount of “ice” (methamphetamine) having been found at this official’s residence. In response, the official insisted the drugs were confiscated during crackdowns, but authorities have shown little interest in his rebuttals, the source said. 

There is little news circulating about the anti-espionage department chief, but he is believed to be involved in all of these illegal business activities, according to the source. 

“The three cars confiscated by the authorities have been sent to the provincial MSS office,” the source said, adding, “It was also revealed that bundles of cash were found during the house searches, but it’s not exactly clear what has been done with this money.”  

Other inspections aimed at the donju (North Korea’s wealthy entrepreneurial class) have also led to increased anxiety among local residents, the source reported. 

*Translated by Gabriela Bernal

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Kang Mi Jin is a North Korean defector turned journalist who fled North Korea in 2009. She has a degree in economics and writes largely on marketization and economy-related issues for Daily NK. Questions about her articles can be directed to