Protests against market crackdowns in North Korea

Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

Daily NK reports on increased market crackdowns following the spring summits, in two recent articles:

Under the pretext of eradicating anti-socialist elements, North Korea’s authorities are cracking down on market activity. In reaction, some residents have openly protested the country’s state security officers.

“There was an assessment at the beginning of the month regarding the broad inspections conducted to uncover anti-socialist elements in downtown Hyesan City [located near the border with China]. Residents responded by complaining at the meeting, opposing the censorship in an organized fashion because the order was not being applied equally, and was not carried out very well overall,” a source in Ryanggang Province told Daily NK on June 29.

“Residents were saying, ‘Some houses were searched very lightly, while over 10,000 RMB (~1,500 USD) in cash was taken from others.’ ‘Some people were subject to the crackdown, while others were able to evade it.’ People were openly complaining, ‘If you’re going to steal money, take it from everyone equally!’”

“Those who were out of their homes during the crackdown no doubt got the tip off from the Ministry of State Security (political police). As the crackdown approached, they prepared by taking out all the money and products from their homes and disappeared without a trace. Why did those people get special treatment while the rest of us got hit by a bolt of lightning?” she added.

Crackdowns on the marketplace have eased since the beginning of the Kim Jong Un era, leading to a surge in market activity. However, there have been intermittent measures introduced and implemented by the authorities to stunt and stifle these developments. But North Korea’s residents, taking heed from the regime’s propaganda advising them to “pick themselves up by their own bootstraps,” have come to regard commercial activity as an inherent right.

There have been many confrontations with officials from the Ministry of People’s Security (police) in this regard. However, Ministry of State Security officials, tasked with handling the ideological control of the people, were once regarded as “angels of death,” before the marketization period. But now even their power has been sapped by the changing structure of North Korean society, specifically the shifting values brought on by marketization.

“The residents were busy complaining to the Ministry of State Security agents at the crackdown assessment, saying, ‘What power do we have?’ Facing this pressure from the residents, the investigating agents declined to taken intervening measures and instead hurriedly left the room,” a separate source in Ryanggang Province noted.

Many are also upset because Ministry of State Security agents are well known to accept bribes from market traders. As levels of mistrust and anger increase, the situation is reportedly deteriorating.

Asked to describe the current atmosphere, a third Ryanggang-based source said, “Previously, when there was a crackdown coming, people would let each other know. This time, people are warning each other but also accusing each other. Making a living is difficult, and the authorities do nothing but launch investigations and confiscate money, so the people are lashing out.”

The residents are also upset about the regime’s propaganda and the fact that punishments are not being meted out evenly.

“It’s said that all the money and property seized during the investigations is being sent for construction projects in Samjiyon County, but nobody actually believes that. The Ministry of People’s Security conducted ideological evaluations of the residents after the investigation, but the residents are powerless to resist,” the initial source concluded.

North Korea proclaimed that it would launch a war of annihilation against anti-socialist behavior this year, and has strengthened its crackdown on the trade of South Korean cultural content and products that reflect capitalist culture.

Article source:
North Koreans protest unfair market crackdowns
Kim Yoo Jin
Daily NK
2018-07-03

 

And the anti-imperialist struggle goes on, to the detriment of the markets:

Following special orders given to Party cadres, the North Korean authorities have been continually emphasizing the importance of rejecting foreign culture and adhering to socialism. The policy marks a clear divergence from the leadership’s peace offensive on the international stage, and is seen as an effort to crackdown on residents, strengthen internal solidarity, and increase loyalty.

During a telephone call with Daily NK on June 27, an inside source from Ryanggang Province said, “Immediately before the US-North Korea summit on June 12, the authorities gathered the cadres and delivered a lecture to them. It was announced that as the imperialist ideological attack takes place, we need to slam the socialist door of Juche (self-reliance) shut even tighter.”

The lecture distinguished for the first time the type of behavior that denigrates socialism. It was explained in great detail which social phenomenon fell into which category.

For example, the authorities labeled as anti-socialist the practice of dyeing one’s hair and wearing decadent clothing that clouds the socialist spirit. “Inform them not to wear long socks (mesh stockings) with flowers drawn on them, or clothes with English lettering on them,” the source recounted.

“It was emphasized that, if one sells these products in the markets, all of the goods will be confiscated. In particular, women will have to pay a fine of 30 yuan (about US $4.50) if they are caught wearing skirts that ride above the knee.”

Behavior that is considered counter to socialism includes acts like criticizing the Party’s policies and the enjoyment of overseas culture. “Illegal cell phones, illegal TV shows and movies, South Korean movies, radios, South Korean songs, erotic dancing, etc. were noted. If caught associated with any of the above, residents are subject to severe punishment without trial,” a source in North Hamgyong Province said, adding that the same lectures took place in that province.

“Erotic dancing refers to the dance craze spreading around Pyongyang at the moment, which involves copying the moves of South Korean pop stars. It’s also targeted at eradicating the practice of teaching these sorts of dance classes for money.”

Both sources noted that daily emphasis has been placed on expanding the role of Group 109 [a task force dedicated to rooting out the spread of foreign media].

“Through strengthened control over residents, no capitalist elements are being allowed to step even a single foot on this land [North Korea],” the source in Ryanggang Province explained.

Asked about the reaction of the cadres, the North Hamgyong-based source said that “they feel as if they’ve been struck on the back of the head.”

“The cadres are guessing that as the international relations of the country improve, their role will be to ensure that the people remain isolated,” he continued.

“The future looks discouraging – we’ll need to live with our mouth, eyes, and ears closed.”

Article source:
Cadres told to reinforce North Korea’s seal to fight ‘imperialist ideology’
Kim Yoo Jin
Daily NK
2018-07-03

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