Archive for the ‘Revolt’ Category

North Korea Lauds Its Economic Achievements One Year After Kim Jong Il’s Death

Friday, December 14th, 2012

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

In preparation for the first anniversary of Kim Jong Il’s death, North Korea is calling attention to its economic achievements.

North Korean media announced that workers in each production sector met the goals of this year to commemorate the death of Kim Jong Il.

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on December 7, “To honor the oath of bloody tears made before our Dear Leader Kim Jong Il, with burning hopes to charge ahead to meet the annual People’s Economic Plan, industrial production output reached 100 percent and production of daily necessities reached 113.7 percent, as of December 5.”Specifically, the machinery industrial sector was said to have reached its annual production goal by 107 percent as of the end of November.

Rodong Sinmun, the mouthpiece of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), also mentioned that a product exhibition was held from December 3rd to 6th in the Pyongyang Department Store No. 1.

In addition, KCNA reported that many hydroelectric power plants across the nation have already exceeded the annual electricity production plan. The KCNA claimed that Sodusu power plant exceeded the annual goal by 120.3 percent, while the Hochon River power plant and Jangjin River power plant reached 107.6 and 109.3 percent, respectively.

North Korean media boasted its economic development and spoke of its economic revitalization strategy. In the KCNA commentary: “We have developed our own economic revitalization strategies for economic development and devotion for this goal is deepening with time.”

North Korea’s recent announcement and actual launch of the Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite is also claimed to be an essential process for North Korea’s economic development.

“Unha-3rocket carryingthe satellite Kwangmyongsong-3, was developed by North Korean scientists and engineers by its own technology, and it is a noble achievement for its scientific and technical advancement to realize the goal of economic revival,” stated Choson Sinbo, a Japan-based pro-North Korean newspaper.

Analysts see North Korea’s recent moves (that is, its stressing of economic achievements and the rocket/satellite launch) as Pyongyang’s effort to emphasize the Kim Jong Un regime’s intent to uphold the teachings of the late leader Kim Jong Il through strengthening the economy.

The year 2012 was propagated by North Korea to be the first year of its kangsong taeguk (“strong and prosperous nation”). North Korea is trying to prove to its people that, despite Kim Jong Il’s death, this effort is still continuing under the Kim Jong Un leadership.

In the December 7th article of the KCNA, annual evaluation was made of the various economic achievements. The article called the past year “a historical miracle of a new era,” and “first year of new centennial of juche.” It also stated that a “new historical miracle was created to mark the new era of strong Korea (Chosun) upholding the great teachings of General Kim Jong Il.”

The KCNA mentioned the ‘Day of the Sun’ celebrations and other various celebrations, WPK conference, Kim Jong Un’s onsite visits to military bases, completion of the Huichon Power Station, Pyongyang city park construction, and Moranbong band performances as major achievements of the year.

In addition, the new 12-year compulsory education policy, outstanding performance by North Korean athletes at the 2012 London Olympics (i.e., four gold and one bronze medal), and the commissioning of the new State Culture and SportsGuidance Commission were also mentioned as main accomplishments of the year.


Beautification projects foment resentment

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

Pictured above (Google Earth): Hyesan City, capital of Ryanggang Province

According to the Daily NK:

A campaign to beautify the streets of Yangkang Province [Ryanggang, 량강도] has begun to anger local residents, according to sources.

The beautification campaign has been implemented nationwide in preparation for next year’s planned festivities. In Yangkang Province this has translated into residents being compelled to lower fences, erect gables along roof lines and lime wash walls.

A source from the province reported on Tuesday, “An instruction came down from the Urban Management Department of the municipal committee of the Party telling us to ‘destroy all fences over two meters in height’. Now people are saying that only the thieves are happy.”

North Korean fences have traditionally been made with brush wood or bamboo, and more recently with planks of wood. In the early 1990s, the height of most fences was around one meter, but as the economic situation got worse, the fences got concomitantly higher. Now, there are three meter high fences in some places, according to defectors.

The source explained the residents’ fears, saying, “We built fences that high using our own money because there are so many thieves. But, the authorities have ordered us to destroy the high fences, so people are really annoyed.”

He went on, “Some people have even built their storage areas with the high fences forming part of the walls. So, at a time when they should be in the jangmadang, they have been destroying their storage along with the walls. Therefore, people are calling it a life and death situation.”

A second instruction has been to place gables on roofs in order to make them more aesthetically pleasing.

Another source explained, “There was an instruction to build gables a month ago, so people dug clay soil from the mountains and built the gables. But, during the rainy season, the roofs started leaking.”

He added, “People ask what they are meant to do to put gables on tumbledown old houses.’”

According to the source, the beautification campaign began when a person who used to be the chief manager in charge of Yangkang Province Guidance Department of the Central Committee of the Party was appointed as Chief Secretary of the Provincial Committee of the Party (in 2009). People supposedly complain that he is tormenting people to garner a promotion.

In a similarly arbitrary process in 2000, Kim Jong Il caught sight of an apartment veranda with glass across it during a visit to Shinuiju, and summarily declared that all verandas should be so equipped. As a result, people had to add glass to their own verandas.

The competition to get as much glass on as many apartments as possible was fierce, according to sources, but then suddenly Kim, during a later onsite inspection in Hyesan, declared that all the glass was making apartments look like prisons, so it was all duly taken down again.

People thus assume that the energetic implementation of the current campaign is rooted in the desire of local officials to impress Kim Jong Il, a fact which is not improving their view of the situation.

Read the full story here:
Party Calls for Lower Fences and Splendid Gables
Daily NK
Lee Seok Young


Security strengthened at KJI residences

Sunday, March 6th, 2011

Pictured above on Google Earth: Kim Jong-il’s Central District office and nearby Residence 15 (Under renovation)

According to Yonhap:

North Korea has deployed tanks and other weapons around its leader Kim Jong-il’s residences in Pyongyang to fortify them against a possible revolt spurred by the ongoing anti-government protests in the Middle East, a Seoul source said Sunday.

During a closed-door meeting with lawmakers on Friday, a senior official of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) confirmed reports of such activity, according to the lawmaker who sits on the parliamentary intelligence committee.

“In response to a question asking for confirmation of reports that ever since the collapse of the Mubarak regime (in Egypt), Kim Jong-il has placed tanks and many other weapons around his residences for fear of a similar situation, (the intelligence official) said that that is how he knows it,” the lawmaker said.

The 69-year-old North Korean leader is known to own four residences in Pyongyang alone.

Asked whether the pro-democracy rebellions in the Middle East are having any effect on North Korea, the NIS official said they have had “practically none,” according to the lawmaker.

The NIS official, however, did say that the Pyongyang regime was tightening its grip on North Korean embassy staff returning from abroad for fear that they would spread news of the Middle Eastern crisis to others around them, the lawmaker said.

Read the full story here:
Tanks deployed to fortify N. Korean leader’s residences: source


North Pyongan ‘protest’ wrap up

Friday, February 25th, 2011

Pictured above (Google Earth): locations of the reported protests in North Pyongan along the Beijing-Pyongyang railway line (blue)

This week several stories came out alleging multiple protests in North Pyongan Province (평안북도)  over economic conditions.  The cities affected were Sinuiju (신의주),  Ryongchon (Yongchon 룡천), Sonchon (선천), and Jongju (정주).

According to the Choson Ilbo:

Small pockets of unrest are appearing in North Korea as the repressive regime staggers under international sanctions and the fallout from a botched currency reform, sources say. On Feb. 14, two days before leader Kim Jong-il’s birthday, scores of people in Jongju, Yongchon and Sonchon in North Pyongan Province caused a commotion, shouting, “Give us fire [electricity] and rice! ”

A North Korean source said people fashioned makeshift megaphones out of newspapers and shouted, “We can’t live! Give us fire! Give us rice!” “At first, there were only one or two people, but as time went by more and more came out of their houses and joined in the shouting,” the source added.

The State Security Department investigated this incident but failed to identify the people who started the commotion when they met with a wall of silence.

“When such an incident took place in the past, people used to report their neighbors to the security forces, but now they’re covering for each other,” the source said.

The commotion started because the North Korean regime had diverted sparse electricity from the Jongju and Yongchon area to Pyongyang to light up the night there to mark Kim’s birthday on Feb. 16.

“Discontent erupted because the regime cut off electricity that had been supplied to them only a few hours a day, and they had hard time putting food on the table due to soaring rice prices.”

A North Korean defector said the Jongju and Yongchon area “has long been a headache to the regime due to the spirit of defiance of the people there.”

In a separate story reported by the Choson Ilbo, it appears that a protest in Sinuiju was launched several days later by market traders who were being harassed by officials.

(UPDATE) The Daily NK reports that the skirmishes were fairly minor:

A news report about a protest supposedly involving a few hundred citizens in Sinuiju on the 18th, released by a South Korean newspaper on the 23rd, appears to have been highly exaggerated. It was just an argument over stall fees between traders and market managers, sources say.

The commotion revealed by a domestic South Korean newspaper occurred at Chinseon Market near Sinuiju Stadium, where a number of fabric and shoe factories are located. The disagreement was triggered by a notice stating that fees would double from 4,000 to 8,000 won a month, or 400 won a day. At current prices, the new stall fee is enough to buy corn to feed a North Korean adult for more than two weeks.

When a member of market management insisted that traders had to follow the regulations unconditionally as an order handed down by the municipal commercial management office, some got so angry that they threw trash at the manager, shouting that it was too much to take and asserting that illegal grasshopper trading, meaning without a permanent stall in the legal market, trading in nearby alleyways illegally while avoiding the eyes of community watch guards or People’s Safety Ministry agents, would be better for them.

Eventually, ten or so agents from a PSM strike force were able to calm them down. Nevertheless, during the incident other traders came along to watch the commotion, so in the end over a hundred of people were gathered in the one area.

After around 30 minutes of complaint, the traders were finally dispersed. Some got hurt during fights with market managers, but there were no serious casualties. Additionally, there was no military presence.

The source explained, “Since market managers are not members of law enforcement, traders were able to grab them irately by the collar and shout at them for raising the fees.”

“Commotions like this are common,” he went on, “so there is no serious uneasiness about it,” and went on, “in addition; community watch guards kicking grasshoppers out of alley markets, then them going back there and trading again is a daily routine. Therefore, physical fights are really common between traders, community watch guards and market managers.”

Finally, he noted, “In Shinuiju, it is generally calm,” and, regarding another report on cell phone usage which suggested that phones had been cut to avoid giving the people access to information on Middle East protests, said, “There is no evidence of that. People are still using cell phones.”

So don’t get your hopes up that this has anything to do with the situation in the Middle East (as some journalists seem to have done). According to Yonhap:

South Korea has not detected any signs of organized resistance in North Korea, although it believes that small-scale protests have sometimes occurred in the impoverished communist nation over economic woes, an official here said Thursday.

Some recent media reports, citing unidentified sources inside the North or defectors, have said North Koreans staged rare public demonstrations over food shortages, amid popular uprisings sweeping the Middle East and North Africa.

“Although small-scale protests over livelihood have been reported since a botched currency reform, we have not observed any circumstances to be viewed as a collective demonstration there,” said the official at the Unification Ministry in charge of relations with North Korea.

Responding to questions about whether the wave of pro-democracy upheavals in Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, Libya and elsewhere would affect North Korea, the official said, “I think there would be no big impact in the short term.”

The New York Times also noted the difficulties of mounting social change in the DPRK:

“The gap between the elite and the rest of the country has probably never been wider,” said Mr. Everard, currently a fellow at the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center at Stanford. But at the same time, he added, “There’s no reason to expect things to change any time soon.”

The Communist regime in Pyongyang, analysts said, has no intention of relaxing its political grip or opening up its economy.

“Reforms mean death,” said Andrei Lankov, a North Korea expert and professor at Kookmin University in Seoul. “It’s a matter of survival and control.

“The leadership wouldn’t mind economic development,” he said. “Look, they’re rational. They want modernity. They’re not fundamentalists looking to Paradise and expecting 72 virgins to be waiting for them.

“But reforms? No.”

Indeed, the word “reform” — kaehyuk in Korean — has never been used in the official North Korean economic literature, according to Changyong Choi, a research fellow in social science at Syracuse University in New York State who has studied the topic. Instead, policy changes are known as “adjustments,” and the result is called “pragmatic socialism.”

Recent refugees, scholars of North Korea and South Korean government officials see no signs that the economic hardships are pointing toward political instability. They see no existential threat to Kim Jong-il and his regime, whether through civil unrest, political factionalism or a military revolt.

Regime change, as tantalizing as it might be to Seoul and Washington, seems remote. Mr. Kim looks to be in passably good health. And the apprenticeship of his youngest son, Kim Jong-un, appears to be under way, albeit slowly and quietly.

Ordinary North Koreans certainly struggle to eke out a living, but they are not starving. And the situation is nothing at all like the so-called Arduous March famine of the mid-1990s. More than a million North Koreans reportedly died from starvation then when aid from Russia stopped, crops failed and the socialist system of food allotments fell apart.

Even at that level of hunger and horror, there was no profound, collective unrest. “The people who kept waiting for their government rations to come, they just died quietly,” said John S. Park, director of the Korea Working Group at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington.

The New York Times has more here.

Andray Abrahamian has more in 38 North.


Kim Jong-un’s prison amnesty

Saturday, November 13th, 2010

According to the Daily NK:

A number of criminals judged to have committed their crimes due to poverty were granted an amnesty in commemoration of the 65th anniversary of the Workers’ Party founding in September, in a move characterized as being a result of Kim Jong Eun’s boundless consideration for the North Korean people. However, this has led to serious adverse effects.

A Daily NK source reported on the 12th that, upon a decision of the Standing Committee of the Supreme People’s Assembly, the North Korean authorities reduced the prison terms of around 150,000 criminals across the country in the amnesty, entitled “On the reduction of prison terms for prisoners in commemoration of the 65th anniversary of the Party founding and the Party Delegates’ Conference.”

For example, around 1,500 out of 2,100 prisoners in No. 12 Reeducation Camp under the Reform Department of the People’s Safety Ministry in Pungsan-ri, formerly Jeongeo-ri, Hoiryeong, North Hamkyung Province had their sentences reduced.

According to the source, “Around 250 prisoners were released and three special contributors had their sentences reduced by four years, 20 model prisoners by three years, and around 1,500 other general prisoners by two years.”

He added, “Only violent offenders (robbers, murderers and rapists) sentenced under article 141 of the Penal Code and human trafficking offenders (defector-related offences) under article 117 of the Penal Code were excluded.”

After the head of the camp announced the list of prisoners who would benefit, he reportedly added, “Those who are being released and having their sentences reduced should feel deeply the consideration of the Youth Captain,” going on to say, “The consideration given by the Party is not a gift sent equally to everybody, but only to those who have done well, and gives more consideration to them.”

Generally, amnesties in North Korea are undertaken on every fifth birthday of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il and the founding day of the Party, ratified by Kim Jong Il after the Standing Committee of the SPA submits a proposal to him. The 12 reeducation camps under the PSM then decide the scale of the amnesty, depending on the size of the prison population.

However, the amnesties can have undesirable consequences, and this one is no different; the PSM has been reportedly devoting itself to filling up the empty camps, because each camp contains production units.

The source said, “The PSM was concentrating on criminal investigations even before the official announcement of the amnesty, because they had received indications of the decree. With the help of the Prosecutors’ Office, they caught a lot of people and kept them in detention centers, then after the announcement they started putting them in camps.”

“In 2002, commemorating the 60th birthday of the General (Kim Jong Il), although around 30 percent of the prisoners in each camp were released, the same amount of prisoners filled the former prisoners’ places.”

The 12 reeducation camps in North Korea each have unique production facilities. In the No. 12 Camp in Hoiryeong, for example, there is a wooden goods factory, copper mine, dressing plant, limestone mine and farms. Defectors suggest that the profits from these factories cover 80% of the management costs of the PSM.

The camps can be found all over the country including Pyongyang, Kaechoen and Sariwon in South Pyongan Province, Deokwon in Kangwon Province, Hamheung and Hoiryeong.

Read the full story here:
Kim Jong Eun’s “Magnanimous” Amnesty
Daily NK
Im Jeong Jin


Collapse unlikely in the near term

Sunday, November 7th, 2010

Andre Lankov writes in the Korea Times:

Recently one cannot help but notice an important change in the mood of Pyongyang watchers ― well, some of them. Over last year one began to hear again talk which has not been heard for 15 years or so ― serious people, many of whom are potential or actual decision makers, once again are discussing the probability of North Korea’s collapse.

Back in the early 1990 such a collapse was widely ― almost universally ― expected. Indeed, the communist bloc was falling apart, so it seemed only logical that North Korea, arguably the least efficient of all communist states, would go the same way as East Germany or Rumania. To a large extent, in the early 1990s the U.S. policy towards North Korea was based on assumption that its days were numbered. However, the much anticipated collapse did not happen, and since then the idea of it was discredited, so among the experts talks of collapse came to be seen as a sign of non-professionalism. Only in recent years has this talk begun anew.

The reason seems to be clear: the botched 2009 currency reform produced a serious crisis. The irritated North Koreans began to express their dissatisfaction even when talking to foreigners ― an unprecedented development. For a while in February it seemed that the situation was getting out of control ― so, even the habitually cautious Chinese for a while privately expressed their concerns about North Korea’s future.

On one hand, this revival of collapse theory is good news. It seems that in the long run a regime collapse is indeed highly probable, almost unavoidable, and it is good that decisions makers at least discuss such a probability, since it will prompt them to do some useful contingency planning. However, the present author is afraid that these recent talks are, above all, another example of wishful thinking. An immediate collapse is not impossible, no doubt, but it does not look very likely.

There are seem to be two reasons which might trigger the regime’s sudden disintegration ― a popular uprising and an open power clash within the elite, and neither appears likely right now.

The North Korean elite understand perfectly well that unity is the major condition for their survival (“if we do not hang together, gentlemen, we would be hanged separately” seems to be their most favorite dictum). In the peculiar case of a divided Korea, a clash within the elite is likely to trigger the disintegration of the state. Of course, there must be powerful internal rivalries and feuds within the elite, but their shared fear of instability helps to keep these disagreements under control. It is possible that Kim Jong-il’s death will create a new situation, and some of the old feuds will surface, but as long as the “Dear Leader” remains in control, this is not likely.

An outbreak of a popular revolution is highly improbable, too. The North Koreans are poor, but people do not start revolutions simply because they are poor. Revolutions happen when people believe that there are better ways of living. Nowadays, thanks to the spread of information about the outside world, many North Koreans are beginning to suspect that life indeed might be better. However, the sheer dissatisfaction about the current system alone is not sufficient for a revolution. Two other conditions must be present in most cases: people should have some organization, even rudimentary, and they should believe that their efforts are not futile, that the resistance has at least some chance to succeed. Neither condition is met in North Korea so far.

To start with, the North Korean authorities are very good in breaking all horizontal connections between their subjects. Unlike other communist regimes, North Korea does not tolerate even the obviously non-political activities if such activities are not directly supervised by the authorities. So, people are isolated and very distrustful of one another.

The fear is great, too. People do not start rebellions if they are certain that their rebellion has no chance to succeed. But North Koreans still tend to believe that any resistance is futile, since the regime would crush it in no time. There are closet dissenters in North Korea, to be sure, but they have to keep their mouths shut, since any challenge to the regime means certain death.

Things are changing, no doubt. Kim Jong-il’s North Korea is more liberal and permissive than it was when Kim Il-sung ruled the place. The officials prefer to take bribes and are ready to overlook minor irregularities. The booming private markets create an environment where some interaction is possible and people began talking between themselves. However, it might take a long time before these changes will produce conditions suitable for a revolution. Talks of a coming collapse are not a complete fantasy but might be seriously premature.

Read the full story here:
Revival of ‘collapse’ theory
Korea Times


DPRK Economist: Currency reform caused instability

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
NK Brief No. 10-04-20-1

Ri Ki Song, a professor at the Institute of Economics, a part of North Korea’s Academy of Social Sciences, acknowledged during an interview on April 18 that the North’s currency revaluation of last November had caused some instability to unfold across the country. Professor Ri emphasized during an interview in Pyongyang with Kyoto News, “there was some temporary unrest in some areas . . . but there was absolutely no social upheaval and unstable situations were immediately controlled.”

Professor Ri, in answering questions for the Japanese news agency, was the first North Korean to acknowledge the problems caused by the reform. Regarding foreign media reports of the currency reform, Ri stated that the articles did not reflect the reality of the situation, and that the reforms had not destabilized the North Korean society. These comments were in line with those he made on April 1, when he stated at an APTN press conference, “Many people outside of North Korea have been noisily prattling on about problems emerging during exchange rate fluctuations, but there is no social unrest of the kind they speak of.”

He explained that some instability had occurred because price controls and other measures had not immediately followed the revaluation, and that “markets did not open for a few days [after the currency reform],” acknowledging that preparations for the measures had been insufficient. He also explained that following the currency reform, North Korean authorities had taken steps such as reducing prices on some foods and slashing unproductive expenditures. The government also encouraged women to take up jobs in light industry and in the service sector, and repaired the transport system. In an effort to develop the economy in 2010, the North Korean government boosted the budgets for the light industrial sector by 10.1 percent, and that of agriculture by 9.4 percent.

Professor Ri went on to say that authorities had reduced the price of a kilogram of rice from 40 won to 24 won, had lowered the price of eggs to 8 won, and had cut the prices on cooking oil and soap, as well. He added that this trend will continue for the near future.

The currency revaluation, the first of its kind since 1992, was aimed primarily at increasing the value of the North’s money and harnessing inflation, but despite the reform, the government is still managing foreign exchange rates. While keeping exchange rates under control, Ri stated that authorities could still adjust the value of the won, depending on economic developments as well as other domestic and international conditions.

In both the APTN and Kyoto interviews, Professor Ri called foreign coverage of the North’s economic situation “exceptional,” and insisted that nothing was wrong with the DPRK economy.


Reports of worsening conditions in DPRK

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

This week there have been several reports about conditions worsening following the DPRK’s currency reform.  Here are links to some of those stories:

New Signs of Unrest in North Korea?
Peterson Institute
Conversation with Marcus Noland (audio)
March 22, 2010

Resistance against N. Korean regime taking root, survey suggests
Washington Post
Blaine Harden
March 24, 2010

Political Attitudes under Repression: Evidence from North Korean Refugees
Stephan Haggard, Marcus Noland
East West Center Working Paper
No. 21, March 2010

North Koreans fear another famine amid economic crisis
Los Angeles Times
Barbara Demick

North Koreans fear the country is on the verge of a new famine
Times of London
Jane Macartney

According to the AFP, the US is ready to provide food assistance but the North Koreans banned assistance a year ago:

The United States would consider resuming food aid to North Korea if Pyongyang moves to lift a year-old refusal of humanitarian assistance, the State Department said Tuesday.

“There are profound needs for the North Korean population, and to the extent that North Korea wants to accept aid from the international community, including the United States, we will be willing to consider that,” department spokesman Philip Crowley said at a daily briefing.

In June 2008, Washington agreed to send 500,000 tonnes of food aid to North Korea, including 400,000 tonnes through the UN’s World Food Program and the remainder through other non-governmental agencies.

In March last year, however, the hermit nation began refusing US food aid, without offering a reason.

“If we (provide humanitarian assistance) in the future, just as we’ve done that in the past, our efforts will be to make sure that the aid actually goes to the North Korean people who need it most and is not diverted to other groups such as the military,” Crowley said.


Fighting in the Streets

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

Daily NK
Park Sung Kook

There has been an explosion in the number of casualties resulting from popular resentment at harsh regulation of market activities by the security apparatus across North Korea, according to various Daily NK sources.

For instance, in Pyongsung, North Pyongan Province, normally one of the key distribution centers in North Korea, there have been several incidents of agents from the People’s Safety Agency (PSA), the organization charged with cracking down on the smuggling of food and other officially “immoral” acts, being attacked by unidentified assailants.

A Daily NK source reported on Monday, “A group of agents who had just finished doing the rounds of the jangmadang and alley markets in Naengcheon-dong, Haksu-dong, and Cheongok-ri in Pyongsung were attacked by a number of people, who assaulted them and immediately ran away. As a result, PSA officials are feeling very tense these days.”

Commenting privately on these incidents, some people savor them as acts of revenge, but others are worried about the situation, according to The Daily NK’s sources.

There have been more examples unearthed in recent days, too. For instance, North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity (NKIS), a Seoul-based defector group, recently received news that “a fight broke out between agents of the PSA, who monitor the Hyesan jangmadang, and some residents. As the fight turned serious, one resident snatched an agent’s gun and fired randomly into the crowd. One agent, Choe, is in a critical condition.”

According to NKIS, the fight began after the PSA agents beat up a trader who was trying to avoid the crackdown, and that made other residents angry, so they attacked the agents in return. As the fight grew more serious, agents threatened residents, but this only added fuel to the flames.

Finally, a Daily NK source from North Hamkyung Province released one other incident: Cho, who used to work for the Prosecutions Department of the National Security Agency in the region, was apparently killed by a Chongjin Steel Mill worker called Jeung Hyun Deuk.

The source explained, “Jeung’s father, the chief of a foreign currency-generating company, was interrogated last July on suspicion of embezzling enormous amounts of property and foreign currency, and in January was sentenced to life in prison. However, a few days after being imprisoned, he died. Thereafter, Jeung held a grudge against his father’s interrogator, Cho, and eventually killed him.”

The source concluded, “Traders and residents have lost their property due to the redenomination and are pretty much being treated as criminals as a result of the NSA and PSA’s ‘50-Day Battle.’ Therefore, people are taking revenge on agents, since they feel so desperate that, regardless of their actions, they will die. As a result, social unrest is becoming more serious.”

On January 2, the National Defense Commission released an order entitled “On completely sweeping away hostile factions who attempt to demolish our Republic from the inside,” initiating the “50-Day Battle” crackdown by the PSA and NSA in every city, county, and province which was referred to by the North Hamkyung Province source.