North Korea’s Market Regulations Extreme, Even Inspect Women’s Undergarments

Daily NK
Kwon Jeong Hyun
12/3/2007

The North Korean authorities have toughened their regulation of the market.

An inside North Korean source relayed that “After releasing the policy of market regulations, the inspections of the railway police have become more extreme. They carelessly go through the citizens’ bags or even search women’s undergarments.”

The North Korean authorities have strengthened market regulations, such as prohibiting goods that can be sold in the market or fixing prices.

Also, they have adjusted the minimum age of women who can sell in the jangmadang (markets) to 45 from 35 years. If women who are under 45 sell in the market or sell prohibited goods, the safety agents in charge or the managers of the jangmadang confiscate the products by force or charge fines.

The source commented, “The security agents search their bodies because merchants hide cosmetics, medicine, or precious metals in thick clothing. After the decree from the authorities, the safety agents have come forward for aggressive regulations.”

The regulation of the market has spread to long-distance merchants who use rails. If young women are carrying a lot of possessions in trains, the safety agents steal the goods by force and search their bags without discretion.

Pyongyang has also made public announcements to prohibit women under 49 from trading at the market starting December 1st. Currently, women under 39 are prohibited. Further, they are only allowed to sell at permitted locations in the market.

North Korean rail safety agents ride in every car of North Korea’s rails. The basic duties of rail safety agents consist of checking travel certificate and citizen cards and regulating suspicious passengers, including crimes of theft. On top of this, their authority to inspect women who are engaging in long-distance trade has increased.

The rail safety agents force passengers who carry large loads suspected of being goods for sale to come to the inspection car. The safety agents search the luggage and make threats, such as reporting them. Recently, after the prohibition of sales by women under 45, if the owner of the luggage is a woman under 45, she been threatened to be reported. Long-distance merchants can only claim their goods if they give bribes such as cigarettes or cash to the rail security officer.

The source stated, “After the market regulation, the amount of bribes to the rail safety agent has risen. Due to this decree, the safety agents become well-off.”

Also, with the increase in new regulation authority by the rail safety agents, the phenomenon of sexually harassing young women who engage in long-distance trade or requesting wrongful sexual relations has been taking place.

The agents take the women to regulation cars by saying, “We have to investigate whether or not you are engaging in gold trade,” and force them to remove their undergarments under the pretext of investigations and engage in illicit conduct. If the women protest, their luggage is confiscated or their citizen cards and travel certificates are handed over to the discretion of the local safety agency office at the train station and the woman is forcibly removed from the train.”

The source said, “In North Korea, there are no laws regarding human rights and the consciousness of average civilians regarding human rights is very low, so recent occurrences which have been frequent can give rise to societal issues.” He also noted, “As a result of the recent market regulation decree, the tyrannies of safety agents and party leaders have become worse and the situation of indiscriminate human rights violations has become even more conspicuous.”

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