Who Is the Chairperson of the People’s Unit?

In North Korea, it is suggested that “at the whim of the chairperson of the People’s Unit, even house prices can skyrocket.”

A source from North Hamkyung Province said in a phone conversation with the Daily NK on the 14th, “The Anti-Socialist Group has been trying to regulate TV and illegal recordings, but no one has been caught yet. The People’s Units have worked together, so regulations have not been so effective.”

The source said, “When the inspection group comes, the chairpersons of the People’s Units contact each other in advance, so inspections can be avoided. Nowadays, how a People’s Unit chairperson acts affects the price of housing.”

The source also stated, “The only democratic election in North Korea is the People’s Unit Chairperson Election.” The reason for allowing the democratic election of the People’s Unit chairperson is due to the character of the People’s Unit.”

The source explained that, the People’s Unit is in charge of mobilization of people for beautification of streets and even for farming. If a People’s Unit chairperson is designated by the state, then the devotion of the citizens is lost. Therefore, the citizens of the People’s Unit elect their chairperson, who has no term of office, through direct voting in a show of hands.

If a chairperson loses the trust of the residents of a People’s Unit, then he or she cannot mobilize them

When a chairperson relocates to another place or loses people’s trust, a new one is elected.

If a chairperson of a People’s Unit is trustworthy, then the citizens gather by themselves for the mobilization of the People’s Unit every morning, once the chairperson merely rings the bell situated in the center of the village or in front of the apartment. But if a chairperson loses the residents, then they will knock on every door in the village to no avail.

The source said, “Recently, the road between Hoiryeong and Daeduk-ri underwent construction. The cadres and the wealthy people provided the meals and vehicles, so the construction could be completed quickly.”

He said, “When the People’s Unit organizes an operation, the chairpersons mobilize material support such as vehicles or money from the powerful people, while the weak contribute their labor power.”

He added, “If there is a sudden inspection, then both the powerless and the powerful can end up being victimized. Due to such a dynamic, if there is an inspection the powerful and the powerless tend to cooperate.”

The source continued, “If an inspection unit comes suddenly, the People’s Unit chairperson tends to alert every household through the children in the village, which has been described as ‘the pastime of the People’s Unit.’ The more a People’s Unit chairperson excels at this, the less damage to the people of the unit.”

He then explained, “Officials or big-time merchants pay careful attention to their relationship with the chairpersons. No matter what the type of inspection is, the citizens’ attitude can be assumed via the words of the chairperson of the People’s Unit, so the fate of a household depends on the words of the chairperson.”

If the citizens are significantly damaged by an inspection, then the chairperson’s position of the Unit has to be forsaken

He said, “Depending on the extent of the damage to the People’s Unit during the inspections, people distinguish whether or not the People’s Unit chairperson is smart and experienced or not. If the chairperson is judged to be not smart, then he or she has to relinquish his or her position.”

The North Korean authorities have been known to secretly bestow cash or gifts such as TVs to People’s Unit chairpersons who report on corruption or anti-governmental actions of officials. However, a majority of the People’s Unit chairpersons are concerned with the citizens whom they themselves are responsible for and do not fall into appeasing the state.

The source noted, “If a People’s Unit chairperson is not smart or sides with the North Korean authorities, then the residents of the People’s Unit will be completely devastated during anti-socialism or other kinds of inspections. Therefore, residents of the People’s Unit assume a prudent attitude in voting for a chairperson.

He explained, “People who buy homes now cannot distinguish between good and bad homes, but pay great attention to the People’s Unit in the neighborhood. If the People’s Unit chairperson is not so sophisticated, then the neighborhood cannot come together, so people tend to avoid such neighborhoods and the price of housing tends to fall as well.”

He noted, “Before, influential people did not pay attention to the People’s Unit chairperson, but things are no longer the same. Even influential officials move out when their relationship with the chairperson of the People’s Unit becomes strained.”