North Korea Today No. 153 Jun 2008
- A Growing Number of Returnees Attempting to Defect from North Korea
- A Woman from Hamheung City Caught in Chungjin Defecting from the Country
- Eunduk County on Full Alert for the Prevention of Female Escapees
- Complaints from Visitors Abroad: Too Many Restrictions are Imposed
- Mountain Fire Caused by a Student's Carelessness; Parents are Punished
- The Public Prosecutors' Investigation of Kyongsung Pottery Factory
- A Growing Number of Returnees Attempting to Defect from North Korea
With serious food shortages sweeping North Korea, there are many returnees who are trying to go back to their relatives or parents in Japan. As an increasing number of returnees get caught attempting to escape North Korea nowadays, the National Security Agency is reinforcing surveillance and keeping a close watch on returnees returnees and their families. Especially when issuing travel permits, they thoroughly examine returnees. However, in most cases travel permits are not even granted. A 58 year-old Kim Myoung-hum living at Sapo District of Hamheung City says in sympathy, 'Even though attempts to defect from North Korea can be life-threatening and ruin one's life, many returnees try every way to escape from North Korea. Why wouldn't they hope for humanitarian life, getting out of the extreme hardships of living here? If I could, I would also take all my family out of this country.'
A Woman from Hamheung City Caught in Chungjin Defecting from the Country
On June 4, a middle-aged woman living at Sapo District of Hamheung city was caught at Chungjin Station while attempting to escape from North Korea. She had been preparing to make her escape with money she got from her brother, who defected from North Korea, via a 47-year- old man, Lim Hyuk-soo living in Hoeryong. She headed to Hoeryong with the fake identification card and a travel permit that she had made by searching for a woman of her similar age. She left the station, and before long passengers started to be inspected. She was so tense during this process that she was suspected by the National Security Agent. When she was consecutively asked about the purpose of her trip to Hoeryong, the names and job positions of her relatives, and how many times she has visited them so far, she answered was flustered and she replied that she was on her way to get food, while secretly handing over 300,000 won to the agent. Unlike her expectation that the bribe would work, she got handcuffed and was taken to the inspection room for a thorough, strict review. Unable to resist agents' tenacious, consecutive questions, she confessed everything that she had gotten money and a letter from her brother through Lim Hyuk-soo living in Hoeryong and that Mr. Lim was supposed to guide her to cross the river to China once she arrives in Hoeryong in time. The National Security Agency arrested Lim Hyuk-soo on June 10.
Eunduk County on Full Alert for the Prevention of Female Escapees
Nowadays, Eunduk County seems to be on high alert to prevent women from defecting to China. A couple of days ago, the Leading Secretaries of the County Party, the Heads of Police Station, the Division Chairmans of the People's Committee, the Officials of Security Agency, and Members of Safety Committee held a meeting to address the problem of women who have recently attempted to cross the river to China. The agenda was to discuss what measures they should take in order to appropriately deal with and prevent women attempting to defect to China. The Chief of the Democratic Women's Union(DWU) said, 'We must strengthen our supervision and control over the members of the DWU, make them all attend the weekly normal and document-based study classes without any exception, and make sure that no female members fail to fulfill the organizations' guidance including general life meetings.' The Chief also ordered, 'Women should be made to get so busy not as even to think of escaping to China.' According to these measures, a document-based study meeting has become Eunduk County's daily routine that urges women not to go to China. However, people are on the verge of bursting with complaints that they are being overtaxed, treated like inmates because they are already so busy due to nowadays' farming support mobilization.
As a matter of fact, it has been reported that 31 women between the ages of 20 and 40 have disappeared in the last two months in the second workers district of Obong coal mine, Eunduk County. The police of Obong Coal mine are taking a thorough assessment of the number in the household as well as daily check-ins on the whereabouts of women who can potentially defect from the country. In addition, the police are stressing that human traffickers who trade North Korean women to China will surely face a firing squad. In the afternoon on June 13, Kim Gyu-tae, convicted of human trafficking, was killed around the market in a public execution. He had been charged with trading four Chosun (North Korean) women, each for 100,000 won, thus collecting 400,000 Won.
Complaints from Visitors Abroad: Too Many Restrictions are Imposed
Those who go abroad to visit their relatives or to trade are expressing their complaints that they go through such complicated procedures that it is extremely difficult go abroad; moreover, even when they get travel permits, they are ordered to abide by too many restrictions. They also report that it does not make any sense to require them not to contact or experience the culture abroad when this is impossible. You, when staying abroad, cannot help but to be exposed to the real culture of the country including contacting its mass media everywhere. One official of the Central Party's Organization criticizes the policies of the authorities, 'It is particularly difficult to go abroad since representatives or visitors going abroad are strictly limited in number. Even though they are allowed to go abroad, it is the norm that they are under surveillance and followed after. This is a ridiculous practice that foreign people would definitely laugh at.' He also adds that whoever is granted the opportunity to go abroad has been thoroughly examined based on their favorable conditions like social/birth backgrounds, loyalty to the Party and so on. Yet it is hard to understand why the Central Party cannot let go of their worries and distrust of the people who are allowed to go abroad. From this restricted and confined social atmosphere a growing concern is arising that North Koreans will end up becoming blind fools like a big frog in the pond that knows nothing but the 'Ideology of self-reliability,' mired in its own unique socialism while denouncing all the others.
A 47-year-old Kang Tae-sung says, 'It is also prohibited to merely talk about developed foreign cultures and their realities; moreover, once you mistakenly make comments on foreign scientific technology and its management, you are highly likely to be condemned as a reactionary beautifying and pursing foreign lifestyle. It is never ever forgiven to compare the political system of my country with that of others. Propaganda-focused lectures are held all the year around that advertises the system of my country as the best, right, and unique to us. Considering this propaganda, I become suspicious if it is legitimate for the government to keep under surveillance coalmines, factories, institutes, neighborhood units, and farms nation-wide through the National Security Agents stationed at each village. Is this a legitimate way of protecting human rights? The government says we should protect democracy and freedom, but isn't it the government that violates it?' Mr. Kim speaks with emphasis that this is not only his opinion.
Mountain Fire Caused by a Student's Carelessness; Parents are Punished
A huge fire broke out on May 17 in Kapsan County of Ryanggang Province. The fire spread through two big mountains. One student mobilized for rice-planting got hungry even after lunch, so he caught several frogs from the rice paddy and went up to the mountainside to grill them. After grilling and eating frogs, he fell asleep; in the meanwhile, the fire restarted, caught dry grass, and thus spread to wind in an instant. People planting the rice rushed to put out the fire, but containing the blaze was beyond their capacity. Not until two mountains got burnt up, did the fire become naturally extinguished. As the student was a minor, the court sentenced the student's parents to 6 years in prison. Having no money, they could not afford to bribe officials for mitigation. The enraged father harshly beat his son crippled, and people watching them felt so sorry.
The Public Prosecutors' Investigation of Kyongsung Pottery Factory
The provincial public prosecutors have started to investigate a pottery factory in Kyongsung County of North Hamgyong Province. This investigation has been triggered by a rumor that fake, home-baked potteries by the laborers of this factory have been traded over China even to South Korea. Public prosecutors are investigating this case in detail by asking laborers on what they made with what kinds of design.
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