While Kim goes to Hanoi, anti-corruption crackdown continues at home

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

While Kim Jong-un is off to Hanoi, sources in North Korea report that the anti-corruption crackdown at home, on the ground, is becoming increasingly intense. Anti-corruption campaigns are nothing unusual in North Korea in general, and they certainly haven’t been under Kim Jong-un’s tenure. He’s talked publicly about the importance of eradicating corruption several times. But this campaign seems particularly intense and lengthy, according to Daily NK’s reports:

An inspection team from the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK)’s Central Inspection Committee has been deployed to North Pyongan Province to investigate corruption among local government officials. The inspection will reportedly be longer and more comprehensive than previous investigations.

“The inspection team arrived on December 20 and is continuing to investigate local government officials,” said a source in North Pyongan Province. “The team is looking at officials working in customs bureaus, factories and enterprises, and even in storage facilities.”

The WPK Inspection Committee is tasked with investigating party officials who have committed offenses against the party or anti-revolutionary activities, or who have failed to follow policies and rules. The organization is run by former Organizational Guidance Department (OGD) First Director Jo Yon Jun, who is considered one of North Korea’s most powerful figures.

“The inspections being conducted by the central government are much more intense than those conducted by the provincial party apparatus,” said the source. “There’s a rumor that two customs agency officials in Sinuiju, the manager of a City Management Center, and the party secretary of an enterprise have been fired due to the inspection.”

“Most inspections last around 20 days, but this one has been going on for more than three months,” said the source. “It seems like the longest one of its kind.”

During his New Year’s Address, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un emphasized the “eradication of corruption” and an editorial published in the Rodong Sinmun in December labeled corruption a “traitorous act”.

North Korea watchers believe that Kim’s emphasis on eradicating corruption is due to its negative impact on his key goal of economic development.

Locals, however, are reportedly very tense due to the atmosphere brought on by the inspections in the area.

“People are saying to each other that the inspection is really intense and scary. They’re warning each other not to get caught,” said a separate source in North Pyongan Province. “Smugglers are making every effort possible to avoid getting caught up in the crackdown.”

Full article and source:
Elite inspection team to crack down on corruption in North Korea
Mun Dong Hui
Daily NK
2019-02-25

Now, there’s always an imperative for the North Korean government to crack down on corruption. Like the article mentions, the goal of economic growth and development is a sufficient reason alone. Corruption is probably also one of the most common causes of discontent among the citizens, while at the same time, it’s a crucial source of income for public officials at all levels of the system.

At the same time, one might speculate that at a time when foreign currency reserves are likely becoming increasingly scarce, the anti-corruption drive is also a way of tightening accounting. With closer inspections in the name of anti-corruption, the government will gain a better sense of what assets firms and other entities in the country have, possibly in order to demand that more of it be handed over. It’s too early to draw any conclusions, but in any case, these inspections are always done for a reason.

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