Archive for the ‘Ministry of State Security (MPSS, NSA, SSD)’ Category

NIC: Kim Jong-un in charge of intelligence

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

According to the Joong Ang Daily:

The son of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is even more clearly on the fast track to becoming his father’s successor, with the South Korean intelligence agency revealing Tuesday during a session of the National Assembly’s Intelligence Committee that Kim Jong-un is currently head of North Korea’s State Security Department.

The State Security Department is an autonomous bureau directly under Kim Jong-il’s command and has often been referred to as the “secret police.” The department was separated from the regular police force in 1973. The department has been known to have great power over the lives of ordinary North Korean citizens and is thought to be behind severe violations of human rights.

Kim Jong-un’s involvement with the secret police is believed to date back to April 2009, when South Korean intelligence sources said he ordered a sting on a vacation house frequented by his older brother, Kim Jong-nam.

The house had been occupied by people supporting Kim Jong-il’s eldest son and the secret police’s abrupt crackdown was in order for Kim Jong-un to gain the upper hand in the power struggle between the brothers. Those who were at the house were dragged away by the State Security Department, according to sources. Kim Jong-nam was not at the scene.

The position of State Security Department chief has been empty since the death of the last security head, Rhee Jin-su, in 1987. The South Korean intelligence agency believes that Kim Jong-il took over the department himself after Rhee’s death.

Experts believe this powerful position was handed over to Kim Jong-un to hone him for his ascension.

“The position will suit the young successor well in order for him to take control of the Workers’ Party and the North Korean military’s elite,” said Cheong Seong-chang of the Sejong Institute, indicating that Kim Jong-il’s plans are for the son to receive his successor training in private, which would explain why Kim Jong-un has not received additional positions since last September.

The father and son were also reported by North Korea’s official news agency to have made a visit to the secret police headquarters on April 15, founder Kim Il Sung’s birthday.

The South Korean government is keeping a careful watch on the situation but was unable to confirm the report.

“As North Korean media have not said anything about appointing anyone to the position, it is difficult to confirm it,” Lee Jong-joo, spokeswoman of the South Korean Ministry of Unification said yesterday.

Read the full story here:
Kim Jong-un in charge of intelligence: Source
Joong Ang Daily
Christine Kim


Another one bites the dust

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

UPDATE (3/17/2011): According to the Choson Ilbo:

A South Korean security official said, “Kim Jong-il had full confidence in Ju, as you can see from Ju’s recent meeting with his Chinese counterpart Meng Jianzhu in Pyongyang. It remains to be seen whether he’s also been dismissed from the NDC and the Politburo.”

The sacking could be either a sign of a generational shift related to the succession of power to Kim’s son and heir Jong-un or the result of an internal power struggle, a North Korean source speculated.

Another source said Ju may have taken the fall for recent isolated instances of public unrest.

ORIGINAL POST (3/16/2011): According to KCNA:

Ju Sang Song, minister of People′s Security of the National Defence Commission of the DPRK, was dismissed from his post due to illness.

The NDC of the DPRK released a decision on it on Wednesday.

Michael Madden has a biography of General Ju here.

Joseph Bermudez recently wrote an article for 38 North on the DPRK’s intelligence and security reorganization.


Surveillance bureau 118 Sangmu launched

Sunday, March 6th, 2011

According to the Choson Ilbo:

The North Korean regime in January launched a new surveillance bureau charged with snooping on its people, Radio Free Asia reported Thursday.

Quoting a source in the city of Hyesan, Ryanggang Province RFA said the bureau, named 118 Sangmu, combines forces from the State Security Department, the Ministry of Public Security, prosecutors’ offices and party organs, in accordance with leader Kim Jong-il’s instructions “to eradicate antisocialist elements.” Senior officials involved are baffled because the new bureau’s tasks overlap with those of an already existing bureau, 109 Sangmu, it claimed.

Since its launch in 2005, 109 Sangmu cracked down on drugs and DVDs of South Korean soap operas. Over recent years, surveillance bodies have mushroomed, including Bureau 27, an agency which monitors mobile phone use under the State Security Department; 111 Sangmu, which cracks down on child beggars; patrol units of the Ministry of Public Security; mobile strike forces; border guard posts under the Civil Defense Department; and worker inspectors.

The proliferation is already causing problems. On Feb. 24, a pitched battle broke out near the border in North Hamgyong Province between border guards and a security patrol over how to handle three smugglers, a man and two women, who were arrested by the patrol after border guards pursued them, RFA quoted another source in the province as saying. “It nearly led to a shoot-out between the two groups,” the source added.

Internal Surveillance Agencies Mushroom in N.Korea
Choson Ilbo


Security agents raise money from defector families

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

Pictured above: Ontan Worker’s District, Onsong (Google Earth)

According ot the Daily NK:

In advance of next week’s lunar New Year’s Day holiday, National Security Agency agents are concentrating on getting together things for the holiday from households of those whose family members have crossed into China or South Korea.

Exploitation by the NSA or other powerful state apparatus is exceedingly common, of course, and the obtainment of necessities for holidays such as Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il’s birthdays, the Korean thanksgiving day (Chuseok) and lunar New Year’s Day are often covered via exploitation of the people. The difference this time, however, is that the specific targets are the families of defectors.

A source from North Hamkyung Province told The Daily NK today, “NSA agents in charge of northern border regions including Onsung have been engrossed in preparations for the holidays and generating private benefits, targeting smugglers and households with family members who have crossed into China or South Korea.”

The source explained, “Modes of exploitation by agents of the NSA and People’s Safety Ministry and cadres of the Party or prosecutors have been varied of late. They win houses which have problems over to their side and then get them to give certain things.”

The source said that as the lunar New Year’s Day comes closer, these moves have become more active and transparent. “NSA agents visit all of these houses and force them, or sometimes beg for things. They are no different from thieves, just without a knife.”

According to the source, the Conspiracy Research Office of the NSC in Onsung, North Hamkyung Province, which employs 25 agents, has allotted each agent items to get from their district.

There are two sets of items: one set is ten bottles of liquor, 5kg of pork, 20 packs of expensive cigarettes called “Yeomyung,” and the other set contains 20kg of gasoline, a certain amount of fruit and candy, and bottles of oil. Each agent has to select one set.

According to Onsung Jangmadang standards, a bottle of liquor can be bought for 4,000 won, 1kg of pork for 5,000 won, a pack of “Yeomyung” for 6,000 won, 1kg of gasoline 3,000 won, and a bottle of oil for 5,000 won.

In Ontan workers-district within Onsung, there are three agents. The goods assigned to them are also unaffordable, but only defector families have to provide them, the source said.

The source explained, “When an agent visits one’s home, they won’t leave until the host has set up a table of drinks for him. After drinking some, the agent coaxes them, ‘Have you got some news from the South?’ ‘Are you getting money well?’ or ‘When you get a call next time, you should grumble that the situation is hard, so that they will send more money.’”

Sometimes, agents call for bribes for their own family events, too. The source said, “While talking, agents hint furtively that there will be a family event and call for something for that, saying, ‘There will be nothing bad for you if you help out.’”

“Agents say openly that, ‘If more money is delivered, we can live well; it’s is a good thing, and a way to maintain socialism.’ They only need so much as to smell money and they come running,” the source complained.

Due to possible revenge from agents, people cannot complain about the situation and have to provide them with the things they demand, according to the source, who added, “However, the effect works only at that moment when they get the goods. When a problem occurs for these defector families, they are nowhere to be seen.”

Read the full story here:
Defector Families Are Moneybags for NSA Agents
Daily NK
Im Jeong Jin


DPRK trying to crack down on defections

Friday, December 24th, 2010

According to the Daily NK:

North Korea’s National Security Agency (NSA) is trying to use smugglers to crack down on defectors, an inside source has revealed to The Daily NK.

The source from Yangkang Province told a Daily NK reporter on Tuesday, “The Yangkang provincial NSA office has ordered smugglers investigated recently to report those who cross the river for the purpose of going to South Korea.”

In many border regions, smugglers play the role of brokers in river-crossing defections. As of late November this year, the commission earned by a smuggler for facilitating a river crossing was about 4000 to 6000 Yuan per person. For 500 to 1000 Yuan, the smugglers were willing to convey goods back across the Yalu River, too.

The source said, “About two hundred people convicted of smuggling were called in by the NSA,” explaining that they were told, “If they report river crossers to the NSA, the NSA promised to guarantee their smuggling activities.”

The reason for the new policy, the source also explained, is that “while the government keeps strengthening border controls and orders punishment for river crossers, the number of defections is not decreasing, so they have formulated a new plan. It has met with modest early success; on December 16th, three people who were crossing the Yalu River from Huchang to Changbai (China) were arrested by the NSA.”

However, the source pointed out, “Since some smugglers are cooperating with the NSA now, the number of river crossers might decrease for a while, but it will come back to normal. Those smugglers who report to the NSA will lose customers, and those who don’t will have more.”

Read the full story here:
Smugglers Told to Shop Defectors
Daily NK
Kang Mi Jin


DPRK weapons scientist arrested

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

According to the Choson Ilbo:

A senior researcher at North Korea’s National Academy of Sciences has been arrested on espionage charges, it emerged on Tuesday.

A high-level North Korean source quoted rumors that Kim So-in, who is believed to have been in charge of the North’s nuclear and missile development, and his family were arrested by the State Security Department and taken to the notorious Yodok concentration camp in May.

A math prodigy who received his doctorate in his early 20s, Kim was said by the state media to have been behind the supposed launch of the North’s first satellite — an event widely believed to have been a long-range ballistic missile test.

The source said Kim is accused of assisting his father Kim Song-il, a researcher at the Yongbyon Nuclear Complex, in delivering top secret documents on nuclear development to a foreign agency.

The security department is nervous because many senior officials in various areas are suspected of attempting to earn dollars by selling confidential information, with top secret documents about the regime’s nuclear and missile development being leaked abroad, the source added.

Pak Kyong-chol, an official in the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, has also recently been sent to a labor camp for spying, and Kim Won-bom, the chief of the Wonsan office of the North Korean military bureau in charge of earning hard currency, has been arrested after US$1.5 million was found at his home.

And a senior official at the Kumgang bureau of the Majon Mine has been taken into custody for stashing away $100,000 after selling confidential information in conspiracy with military officers.

Senior officials are trying to sell confidential information because of economic difficulties since the botched currency reform late last year and the Chinese government’s recent crackdown on drug and counterfeit dollar transactions.

The security services have been ordered by regime heir Kim Jong-un to look out for “unusually rich” senior officials, the source added.

Read the full story here:
N.Korea’s Chief Nuke Scientist ‘Held for Spying’
Choson Ilbo


Security tightened leading up to party conference

Friday, August 27th, 2010

According to the Daily NK:

It has been reported that the North Korean authorities have declared a “Special Vigilance Period” and begun regulating civilian access to Pyongyang. The move looks like the start of preparations for the Delegates’ Conference of the Chosun Workers’ Party, which could begin as early as the end of next week.

An inside source reported the news in a telephone conversation with The Daily NK today, saying, “Since the 26th, they have been regulating access to Pyongyang for provincial residents at all the ‘No. 10 Checkpoints.’”

The General Security Bureau of the National Security Agency sets checkpoints at every major entry point into Pyongyang, and these are called “No. 10 Checkpoints.” They are used to regulate the floating population; at all checkpoints, vehicles and civilians have their documents checked.

There are approximately ten checkpoints, with Junghwa No.10 (Hwangju, North Hwanghae Province to Pyongyang), Seopo No.10 (Pyongsung, South Pyongan Province to Pyongyang), and Majang No.10 (Sariwon, North Hwanghae Province to Pyongyang) seeing the highest traffic flows.

The source added, “There is also a decree whereby all local cadres on business trips and others visiting Pyongyang on family business or for other reasons must leave Pyongyang by the end of this month.”

Special Vigilance Periods are a customary move when important events are held in Pyongyang on national holidays.

On Kim Il Sung’s and Kim Jong Il’s birthdays (April 15 and February 16), the founding day of the Chosun People’s Army (April 25) and the Chosun Worker’s Party (October 10), the four major national holidays, the Special Vigilance Period conventionally lasts for seven to ten days, while there is customarily a three or four day Special Vigilance Period when the Supreme People’s Assembly is sitting. Additionally, when international VIPs visit Pyongyang, access to the city is generally restricted for four to six days.

The only specific public evidence of the start date of the Delegates’ Conference came in the form of a June 26th Chosun Central News Agency dispatch, according to which, “The Politburo of the Central Party summons a delegates conference of the Chosun Workers’ Party at the beginning of September, 2010 to elect the leading apparatus of the Workers’ Party and reflect new demands for the revolutionary development of the Party, which is facing critical changes in bringing about the strong and prosperous socialist state and Juche revolutionary achievements.”

While the statement could mean any time between September 1st and 10th, considering September 9th is the founding day of the North Korean regime, the conference looks likely to be held between September 6th and 8th.

The Chosun Central News Agency (KCNA) also reported today that county delegates’ conferences have been held and provincial delegates’ conferences will be held soon. The latter will elect provincial delegates who will go forward to the main conference.

In another report, Chosun (North Korea) Central Broadcast (the state radio station) reported that Kim Jong Il had been voted in as a delegate for the North Korean People’s Army in a military party delegates’ conference held in the April 25 House of Culture on the 25th.

Read the full story here:
Pyongyang Getting Set for Delegates’ Conference
Daily NK
Yoo Gwan Hee


DPRK cracks down on drug markets

Friday, August 27th, 2010

According to the Daily NK:

An inside North Korean source has reported the launch of a renewed movement to expose and punish drug crime.

The source explained during a phone interview with The Daily NK on August 26th, “Starting August 20th, a compulsory public lecture has been given by National Security Agency personnel in each neighborhood office. Party instructions regarding a mass struggle to prevent drug and smuggling crime were introduced there.”

The lectures were attended by people’s unit members, with the exception of workers. It is standard practice for the same lecture to be given in work places separately.

The source added, “As the Chosun Workers’ Party Delegates’ Conference approaches, the number of cases in which National Security Agency agents are directing the education of citizens is increasing. Here, they emphasized that there will be strict legal action and punishment for those who take, sell or smuggle drugs in that jurisdiction.”

The People’s Safety Ministry has apparently also dispatched separate task forces to major cities along the Yalu River to hinder smuggling. They are currently trying to bring the border area under control.

The source reported, “Just within Hoiryeong there are 40 ‘task force’ personnel under the People’s Safety Ministry cracking down on illegal immigration and drug smuggling.”

The fact that North Korean citizens living in the border area regularly take drugs or engage in smuggling is not news.

The smuggling route between Sinujiu, Hyesan, Hoiryeong and Onsung to China came into being during the March of Tribulation in the late 1990s. Pharmacists and doctors started mass-producing methamphetamines (known locally as “Ice”) and sold it in China to survive, but now many, indeed some say most, foreign currency earning units are producing, distributing, and smuggling the drug.

Among the more affluent people living in the border area near the Tumen River, “Would you like some Ice?” is a common greeting. Many such people also take Ice as a painkiller, not least because it is among the few widely available drugs which can do the job. Furthermore, use of the drug has also spread to affluent teenagers, which is creating even more concern.

Currently, in major regional cities like Hamheung and Chongjin, one dose of Ice sells for between 3,000 and 5,000 North Korean won.

Read the full story here:
North Korea Launches Drugs Crackdown
Daily NK
Yoo Gwan Hee


Bigwigs in North vie for power over investments

Monday, July 5th, 2010

According to the Joong Ang Daily:

Two men near the top of the North Korean power structure are competing against each other to become foreign investment czar for the cash-strapped country, according to sources with knowledge of North Korea.

North Korea experts say the contest could influence who eventually succeeds Kim Jong-il.

The sources told JoongAng Ilbo yesterday that Jang Song-thaek and O Kuk-ryol, both vice chiefs of North Korea’s National Defense Commission, are competing over who can attract more foreign investment to the North. The National Defense Commission, the country’s top state organization, is chaired by Kim.

“O Kuk-ryol dominated the foreign investment coming into the North because of his military power,” said one of the sources, “but he is in a hegemony struggle in that area with Jang Song-thaek, who thrust himself into foreign investment promotion later than [O Kuk-ryol].”

Jang is the husband of Kim Kyong-hui, Kim’s younger sister, and is one of Kim’s close confidants. Jang was also promoted to vice chairman of the National Defense Commission on June 7 at the Supreme People’s Assembly.

The sources said O, since being appointed a vice chairman of the National Defense Committee in February 2009, has capitalized on his position to expand his influence in attracting foreign investment.

O and his aides established Choson Kukje Sanghoe (Korean International Trading Company) as the organization solely responsible for foreign investment promotion and received approval for the organization from the presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly on July 1, 2009.

Meanwhile, Jang named Park Chol-su, a Korean-Chinese businessman, president of Korea Taepung International Investment Group, which he re-purposed to attract foreign investment.

The company initially belonged to the cabinet, but Jang absorbed it into the National Defense Commission and announced the establishment of the re-purposed company in a January 20 report from the official Korea Central News Agency. The news report said Kim Jong-il issued an “order” that the state guarantee that Taepung be able to attract foreign investment.

“O Kuk-ryol is very displeased that Jang jumped into the foreign investment business that he led,” said the sources. “Currently, Choson Kukje Sanghoe and Korea Taepung International Investment Group are vying against one another.”

The sources said that the power struggle is already being watched with concern by the State Security Department, the North’s supreme intelligence agency.

The agency, the sources said, suspects that China is behind Taepung and is trying to control the North Korean economy by injecting capital through Park and the group. The sources said the agency is hesitant to report its suspicions to Kim, given his close relationship to Jang.

Jang has cultivated power through economic projects Kim has entrusted him with, such as a project to build 100,000 houses in Pyongyang. Since he was promoted to vice chairman last month by Kim, he is thought to have increased his political clout as well.

Ri Je-kang, a rival with Jang, also died in a mysterious, recent traffic accident.

“If a rivalry between Jang Song-thaek and O Kuk-ryol, both key axes of North Korean power, becomes a full-fledged power struggle, it could have a subtle effect on a North Korean succession scenario,” said Kim Yong-hyeon, professor of North Korean Studies at Dongguk University.

Read the full story here:
Bigwigs in North vie for power over investments
Joong Ang Daily


DPRK abandons food rations, orders self-sufficiency

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
NK Brief No. 10-06-17-1
As North Korea’s food shortages worsen and reports of starvation continue to grow, the Workers’ Party of Korea have acknowledged the failure of the central food ration program. Since the end of May, the Party has permitted the operation of 24-hour markets, and the regime has ordered the people of the North to provide for themselves.

The human rights organization Good Friends reported this move on June 14. According to Good Friends, the Workers’ Party organization and guidance bureau handed down an order on May 26 titled ‘Relating to Korea’s Current Food Situation’ that allowed markets to stay open and ordered North Koreans to purchase their own food. This order, recognizing that the food shortages in the North have continued to worsen over the last six months, since the failed attempts at currency reform, acknowledged the difficulty of providing government food rations. It calls on those who were receiving rations to now feed themselves, while also calling on the Party, Cabinet, security forces and other relevant government agencies to come up with necessary countermeasures. Now, authorities officially allow the 24-hour operation of markets, something that most had already tacitly permitted, and encourage individuals, even those not working in trading companies, to actively import goods from China.

It has been reported that government food rations to all regions and all classes of society, even to those in Pyongyang, were suspended in April. The last distribution of food was a 20-day supply provided to each North Korean on April 15, the anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung. Because of the difficulty of travelling to markets, the suspension of rations caused many in farming communities to starve to death. When Kim Jong Il’s recent visit to China failed to secure expected food aid, the Workers’ Party had no choice but to hand down the ‘May 26 Party Decree’. While the suspension of rations has considerably extended the economic independence of North Korean people, the regime has significantly stepped up other forms of control over society. Public security officers have begun confiscating knives, saws and other potential weapons over 9 centimeters long in an effort to stem murder and other violent crimes. Additionally, state security officials are cracking down on forcefully resettling some residents of the age most likely to defect, while sending to prison those thought to have contacted relatives in South Korea.

According to Daily NK, North Korean security officials are pushing trading companies to continue trading with China, while calling on Chinese businesses to provide food aid. It also appears that North Korean customs inspections along the Tumen River have been considerably eased, and there is no real attempt to identify the origin or intended use of food imported from China. Sinheung Trading Company has asked Chinese partners investing in the North to send flour, corn and other foodstuffs. The Sinheung Trading Company is operated by the Ministry of State Security, and is responsible for earning the ministry foreign capital. It appears that food acquisition is now a matter of national security, as North Korea is expecting South Korea and the rest of the international community to economically isolate the country.