“Three’s a crowd” under Kim Jong Un

Pyongyang has issued a new ban on gatherings of three or more people, as fewer residents shy away from complaining about the leadership when in small groups, Daily NK has learned.

“These days, as soon as you sit down with someone, you’re going to be talking pretty openly about how difficult things are for you at the moment, or how the economy is getting worse,” a source from South Pyongan Province told Daily NK on Thursday. “With these complaints swelling, the state recently handed down an order restricting people from ‘engaging in unnecessary chatter’ and ‘sitting in groups of three or more,” he said.

People have compared the recent times to the greatest hardships experienced back in the ‘90s saying “nothing has changed from then” or that “things are more or less the same,” said the source. Some who had higher hopes for the new leader Kim Jong Un now complain that “he was all words and none of the problems have been resolved.”

“The elderly who sometimes sit around at parks have called the continued drought and food shortage they have experienced since Kim Jong Un stepped into power a ‘punishment from heaven” the source said. They blame the lack of change in the current status of the country from two decades ago on the two leaders (Kim Jong Il, Kim Jong Un) who they believe never deserved to take on power, he added.

Some parts of the North Korean economy have improved, such as in the price stability of goods, but the public sentiment is only getting worse, according to the source. People have commented on the striking similarity in food shortage patterns between the current and previous leaderships — both starting just as the two leaders took over power.

“With complaints like this mounting, city and district Party cadre have ordered inminban [people’s unit] leaders to ban residents from sitting and talking about their personal lives,” the source said. This is also true at state-run factories, where cadre are grilling workers to take short breaks and resume their regular work. However, residents remain mostly unfazed by this order, saying that “nothing has changed over the past ten years.”