In mid-November 2014 in Sinuiju, North Pyongan Province, a woman in her 50s considered part of the donju
[new affluent middle class] was publicly executed for “gambling and drug use,”
Daily NK has recently learned.
According to Daily NK’s source in North
Pyongan Province, the woman was “the wife of a North Korean trader in Dandong who was able to rapidly accumulate wealth by having Sinuiju’s wholesale
market at her fingertips.”
He added, “Following an intense investigation after
her initial arrest for gambling, this woman was found to have bribed officials with the Chosun Workers’ Party, the Ministry of People’s Safety,
and most every law enforcement body in North Korea. Orders for her public
execution were quickly handed down by the authorities as she was ‘practicing an
unclean lifestyle by gambling and using drugs,’ running contrary to the accepted practices of a
International criticism and fears of exacerbating already unfavorable views of the country saw the number of public executions reduced in
North Korea from the outset of the 2000s, which is why the recent order is so astounding, though this shift has continued to exempt high-ranking officials from falling victim to the firing squad. The source reported the incident to be a strategic warning, not directed at
ordinary residents, but rather to traders, the donju, and officials amassing a
great deal of foreign currency and meteorically skyrocketing to wealth in the process.
Bribes to the proper authorities were
essential for this female victim to call in favors or get officials to look the other
way in order for her to accrue this considerable wealth. Originally arrested on
gambling charges, after the investigation revealed that scores of law
enforcement officials had received bribes from her, the authorities tacked on drug charges to ensure she was sentenced to death–closing the case quickly and helping them evade implication in the case.
Her fate is a
constant source of concern for all of those running in the same circles. “North
Korean traders going to and from China are in constant danger of being executed
for ‘anti-socialist actions,’ self-evident in their wealth, which is
unprotected thanks to the lack of property rights in North Korea. Because
this property can be confiscated at any point by the authorities, these dealers tend to
buy apartments through trusted Chinese acquaintances as investments.”
These residences are generally luxury
apartments located in the heart of Dandong City, costing on average
around 700,000 RMB. Keeping an apartment as an asset is a popular method
of investment for traders in the Kim Jong Eun era, which far more than
during the Kim Jong Il era, has seen North Korean traders tirelessly looking for
safe ways to save up foreign currency.
While North Korean traders with proper documentation of residency in China for over a year are permitted to purchase
apartments, they still prefer to do so under the name of trusted Chinese
confidants because the hefty taxes levied on foreigners are so prohibitive.
More importantly, nobody is keen to
leave a paper trail. “Even if agents from the State Security Department look
into the situation they won’t be able to find any proof, so no major problems
will arise,” the source said. “The number of real estate deals in China will
keep on growing because the traders can secure a steady stream of money by
charging rent for the apartment.”
These monetary gains are considerable:
currently, a luxury apartment in Dandong fetches 8,000-10,000 RMB per pyeong [1㎡] and depending on the interior and floor space, one apartment can
cost anywhere from 500,000- 1,000,000 RMB; by current exchange rates, 1 RMB
trades for 1,350 KPW in North Korean markets.