Archive for November, 2007

Two Koreas Join Forces to Develop Linux

Friday, November 30th, 2007

Electonic Times News (South Korea)
Hat tip DPRK Studies
Gil-soo Jang

South and North Korea team up to develop a version of ‘Hana Linux (tentatively named)’ and set standards.

Reunification IT Forum (South), Chosun People’s Science Technology Association (North) and Chinese Information Society co-hosted ICMIP 2007 in Yenji, China on November 27 to 28.

At the conference, IT experts from two Koreas agreed on the need for cooperation in the Linux sector and developing ‘Hana Linux.’ Besides, the two parties will pursue other projects such as Open Office, an internationally certified (CC) office suite, and developing Korean language for excellent open software.

Such a proposal was initially made by president of Hee-tak Moon of Korea Open Source Software Association (KOSSA) to the North counterpart. A detailed plan will follow at the Speical Duties Committee (SDC) which will be formed soon by two Koreas and China.

President Ho-ik Seok of Reunification IT Forum, Secretary General Kyung Chon of Chosun People’s Science Technology Association, and President Ryong-woon Hyung of Chinese Information Society agreed to five points at issue and to create expert working groups and the SDC soon.

The three parties also consented to nurture software professionals and, as part of that effort, to base Yenben and Dandung of China, and Pyongyang, Kaesong and Hoichun of Korea as training centers. Moreover, they will consider sharing information by establishing an IT exhibition hall, library and history archive.

To further the agreement and issues, IT experts decided to hold an international conference in Pyongyang in the first half of next year to bring IT professionals together.

They were in agreement that there are differences in IT terminology between South, North Koreans and Korean Chinese and agreed to make efforts to standardize the terms.


First underground DPRK journal launched

Friday, November 30th, 2007

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
NK Brief No. 07-11-30-1

The first bi-monthly magazine reporting internal news directly through North Korean undercover journalists was launched on November 20th. The Korean language magazine, “Rimjingang,” is also expected to launch in English and Japanese by the end of this year. The inaugural issue contains interviews with staff members of the central state enterprise on current North Korean economic issues, public sentiment following the North Korean missile launch last year, interpretations of the North Korean internal image, as well as reports on local occurrences and accidents.

Once news is directly gathered and prepared by North Korean residents, the manuscript is then sent to the outside world where it is printed as the “Rimjingang” magazine. This magazine’s inaugural press conference was held at the Seoul Press Center on the afternoon of November 20th. The conference attracted enthusiastic coverage, with over 30 domestic and international press corps members in attendance, including Fuji TV and international wire services such as AP and Reuters.

With the help of Japan’s Asia Press, the North Korean journalists involved in the production of “Rimjingang” have been filming local footage, conducting interviews with residents, and recording the daily debriefing sessions of citizens for the past five years. Much of the video footage currently distributed to South Korea and Japan has been recorded by the journalists themselves.

Magazine publication officials revealed that the “Rimjingang” would also be distributed within North Korea. They added, “the North Korean reporters seek subject matter that reflects how North Korean people live, what they think, and what they want,” and, “the only real evidence that reflects how North Korea is changing is given through the North Korean people.”

There are currently 10 North Korean journalists affiliated with “Rimjingang.” The diverse list includes a staff member of the central state enterprise, a schoolteacher in his thirties, a worker from a foreign currency earning company, the first journalist to release his pen name to the outside world, a resident in her forties from Pyongan Province, and journalist in his thirties from South Hamkyeong Province.

An official from Asia Press said, “Over the years, more than 600 North Korean defectors have been interviewed around the China-North Korea border,” and, “there have been a few among them with intentions, like us, of delivering news from within North Korea to the outside world, so we have been training them in journalism since 2002.”

“We explained to them what ‘journalism’ was, and taught them the format of news articles as well as the operation of video camera..they then returned to North Korea and began gathering news, and since 2004, some of the news they collected has been released through Japanese and Korean press, as well as U.S. and European press.”


Seoul to Help N. Korean Officials Learn Capitalism

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

Korea Times
Lee Hyo-sik

The government has decided to finance training programs next year to educate North Korean officials and scholars about the free market economy as part of efforts to smoothly implement planned cross-border business projects.

According to the Ministry of Finance and Economy Thursday, the government has set aside 300 million won ($322,000) in next year’s budget to financially support education programs through which North Korean officials can learn about market economy principles and the financial market system.

The ministry is considering organizing a series of workshops for North Koreans to study how former communist countries, including China and Vietnam, opened their doors and successfully transformed into market economies.

It is also planning to arrange study tours to Europe to offer North Koreans opportunities to learn first hand about macroeconomic policies and the government’s role in advanced economies.

“It will be the first time for the government to help North Korean officials and scholars learn about market economic management and development experiences. If it bears fruit, we plan to expand the economic education program in the future to have more North Korean participants,” a ministry official said.

The government will not be directly involved in the training, and instead it will entrust the program to a private education institution, he said, expressing hope that the training will help government officials carry out scheduled inter-Korean business projects more smoothly with their northern counterparts.

During the second inter-Korean summit early October, President Roh Moo-hyun and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il agreed on a number of cross-border development projects, including the establishment of a special peace zone in the West Sea and operation of the inter-Korean railways.

On its own, the communist state has been dispatching a large number of government officials to Germany and other European nations over the past few years on economic training programs. The government estimated the number of North Korean officials visiting advanced economies in Europe totaled 220 in 2004, compared with 237 in 2003, 227 in 2002, 186 in 2001 and 158 in 2000.


Market Economy for NK
Korea Times


Seoul’s Program to Help Pyongyang Learn New System

The South Korean government plans to launch an education program next year to help North Korean officials and scholars learn about the market economy. It is the first time that Seoul has organized such a program. The plan followed recent developments in improving inter-Korean relations after the second South-North summit held in Pyongyang from Oct. 2-4.

According to the Ministry of Finance and Economy, a budget of 300 million won ($320,000) has been set aside for the 2008 program, which will include cross-border information sharing workshops and education on a transition to a market economy and how to adapt to the new system. The budget is only a small sum at this initial stage. But it could increase if the program produces tangible results.

We welcome the education program as it is expected to encourage the stalwart socialist country to shake off its aversion to the market economy system. And furthermore, the program could create a favorable atmosphere for North Korean policymakers and economists to usher in reform and an open door policy. It’s time for the North to realize that inter-Korean economic cooperation packages cannot succeed if it fails to introduce economic reform.

South Korean officials are well aware that it is still difficult to change the mindset of the North Korean leadership that sticks to the old ways of socialism. Regrettably, President Roh Moo-hyun was disappointed that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and his inner circle refused to discuss reform and openness during the summit.

However, we have to be more patient with the hard-line North Korean regime and make more effort to persuade it into acknowledging the need to join many socialist countries in their effort to move toward a market economy. During the summit, President Roh agreed to build railroads, ports and other infrastructure in the North as well as an industrial park and a peace zone for inter-Korean cooperation. These development packages require huge investments from the South.

Such big-budget projects are expected to inject fresh air into the moribund North Korean economy. But they are not enough for the North to realize its ultimate goal of economic reconstruction. In addition to massive investment, the South will have to teach North Koreans how to do business, make money and become rich.

North Korea has recently shown interest in Vietnam. In October, a Hong Kong-based weekly reported that Kim Jong-il expressed the intention of following Vietnam’s reforms and openness during a meeting with Nong Duc Manh, secretary-general of the Vietnamese Communist Party. A delegation from the North led by Prime Minister Kim Yong-il visited Hanoi to learn about the “Doi Moi” reform policy.

The Seoul government plans to select a research institute that will take charge of the education program for the North. An official said candidate institutes might include the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing. We hope the North will learn a lesson from Chinese or Vietnamese style reform to end its isolation, bring prosperity to its people and promote peace on the Korean Peninsula.


Two Koreas to make on-site inspection of N. Korean highway

Thursday, November 29th, 2007


Working-level officials from the two Koreas have agreed to begin an on-site inspection next month of a dilapidated North Korean highway that the countries earlier agreed to jointly repair, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said on Thursday.

The two-day working-level meeting involving four officials from each side started on Wednesday in the North Korean border town of Kaesong, home of an inter-Korean industrial complex. The repair of the highway, which runs between Kaesong and Pyongyang, the North’s capital, is part of an agreement reached at the inter-Korean prime ministerial talks held in Seoul from Nov. 14-16.

South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo and North Korean Prime Minister Kim Yong-il ended their talks by sealing an eight-article accord, covering a variety of issues including economic projects, security, resource development, agriculture and social, cultural and sports exchanges.

“At the working-level contact, the two Koreas agreed to make a joint on-site inspection of the Pyongyang-Kaesong Highway from Dec. 11-27 in order to start its repair work from next year,” a ministry official said.

Some 20 officials from each side will participate in the highway inspection, and they will also jointly make a final report, the official said.

In conducting the inspection, the South will provide survey equipment and materials, while the North will provide various data and conveniences, the official said.

The two sides also agreed to hold the first meeting of the inter-Korean road cooperation committee in February to discuss issues based on the results of the joint inspection. Topics of discussion will include the scope and method of repair work and the joint use of the highway, according to the official.


Pyongyang Citizens, “Life Has Gotten Tougher Since the Inter-Korean Summit”

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

Daily NK
Kwon Jeong Hyun

A source inside North Korea reported on the 26th of November that the country’s food distribution system did not operate properly and the regime strengthened its control over the market in the Pyongyang areas in the second half of November.

“Most residents of Pyongyang’s core districts such as Joong and Botongang district received their food rations. However, only a half of those who live in Moonsu-dong, Chungryu-dong and Soryong-dong of the Daedonggang district received their rations,” the source said.

“An announcement was displayed on a board in front of the Soryong- 2- dong distribution office in the Daedongdang district, stating, ‘Rice to be redistributed as soon as enough rice is secured,’” the source said. The source added that the crop distributed to the people was composed of 80 percent Annam rice and 20 percent corn, and many people complained about its poor quality.

The North’s food distribution system has worked out well in the west Pyongyang area such as Joongu, Botongang and Pyungcheon district. However, the regime has intermittently distributed food rations to residents in the east Pyongyang area such as Daedongang, Dongdaewon, and Sungyo district.

For instance, in August, no food was distributed in the east Pyongyang area. In September, only a half of residents in the area received food rations. In the following month, all received their food. In November, not all received their rations as in September.

When there is no food distribution, people have to procure rice by themselves in the market.

Unfortunately, that is not an easy task. Since the North Korean authorities have fixed the price of rice at 700 won/kg in the markets of Pyongyang, many merchants are not willing to bring out rice for sales. Instead, they clandestinely sell rice at 1,300 won/kg only to individuals with whom they are acquainted.

The price of rice went up to a high of 1,800 won/kg in the mid October, but now remains steady at 1,300 won/kg. As long as the regime tries to control the price of rice, few merchants would sell rice in the open market, thus contributing to a hike in prices.

In the mid November, corn was sold at 500 won/kg, pork at 3,000 won/kg, an egg at 200 won each, Chinese cabbage at 500 won/kg, and domestic cabbage at 300won/kg in the markets of Pyongyang. The rice of cabbage has rapidly dropped as the state released cabbage into the market because November is a season of preparing Kimchi for winter. Domestic cabbage was sold cheap due to its poor quality.

The regime continues to control the markets in Pyongyang. It prohibits all females under 48 years old from doing business in the market. In addition, merchants are not allowed to sell more than 15 items. The regime enforces its market regulatory measures by having organized groups of inspectors composed of young people and ordered them to regularly patrol markets.

The source said, “As the food situation is getting worse and the state is intensifying its control over the market, Pyongyang citizens begin to express a sense of disappointment with South Korean President Roh.” The source said, “After the inter-Korean summit meeting, many fostered the hope that President Roh would help solve food shortage problems and the regime would adopt reform policies. However, that did not happen. As the state tightens its control over the market, life has gotten tougher.”

“Some even went to so say that President Roh should not have come to the North,” said the source, echoing the uneasy sentiments among Pyongyang citizens.


Juche: Idea for All Times

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

Korea Times
Andrei Lankov

The great and immortal idea of Juche, the most advanced social theory the world has ever known, was created by Kim Il-sung in 1930 when the ever-victorious general was 18 years old. Since then, the theory has been embraced by political and intellectual leaders across the world.

This is what North Koreans are required to believe. The idea of a high school graduate developing such a breakthrough social theory might sound strange, but after all the official line is that Kim Il-sung became a leader of the entire Communist movement at the tender age of 14 when in 1926 he allegedly founded the first truly communist group in the country.

However, early references to Juche are almost certain to be faked. The text of the speech which Kim Il-sung allegedly delivered in Manchuria in 1930 was first published in the 1960s, when Juche featured prominently in North Korean propaganda. There are good reasons to think that the entire text of the speech was actually written around the same time, to suit the political situation of the 1960s.

Actually, nothing was known about Juche until December 1955 when Kim Il-sung first used the word in a long speech, addressing a group of high-level party officials. In those days, Pyongyang was waging its first anti-Soviet campaign, still very mild by later standards. Nonetheless, in the mid-1950s the Soviet Union was liberalizing itself, so Kim Il-sung decided to move away from his erstwhile ally and patron. He did not want to be ousted and disgraced by local Korean reformers.

In his attempts to counter the liberal trends, Kim Il-sung decided to use nationalism as his preferred weapon. After all, the liberal wind was blowing from the north, from Russia, and hence it made sense to remind officials about their “Koreanness.” If we have a more careful look though the 1955 speech and other early references to Juche we will see that this was what Kim Il Song meant: not a coherent ideology, not even the idea of “self-reliance,” but rather need to emphasize one’s national identity as a Korean, a need to see Korea’s national interests as the top priority.

I have spent a long time reading through the pages of the Nodong sinmun of the 1950s, and it is clear that references to Juche remained rare until 1960. In the “Popular Dictionary of Political Terms,” published in Pyongyang in 1959, the term Juche is conspicuous in its absence, while in the large Dictionary of the Korean Language (1961-1962) the present-day ideological meaning of the term as a name for a political ideology is featured, but still occupies a modest place as a secondary interpretation. It took a large and concerted effort on the part of the Pyongyang ideologues in the mid and late 1960s to re-define Juche as a coherent ideology and the official philosophy of the DPRK.

Things began to really change in 1965 when the Juche promotion campaign was cranked up. While visiting Indonesia in April 1965, then still under a left-leaning nationalist dictatorship, Kim Il-sung delivered a speech which can be seen as the first Juche speech (the 1955 statement used the word in a different meaning). It was when Juche was first posited as the basic ideological principle of North Korean politics. This happened when the Sino-Soviet quarrel had reached its greatest intensity, and North Korea strove to stay neutral in the noisy feud of its two major sponsors. Nationalism in this situation had to promoted. So Kim Il-sung observed that the leading principles in North Korea were “independence in politics, self-reliance in the economy, and Juche as the ideology.”

Only in 1970 was Juche officially promoted as the leading ideology of the ruling Korean Workers Party. The KWP’s Fifth Congress stated that the Party would be guided by Marxism-Leninism and Juche. Judged by the standards of the Communist bloc, this was heresy. The local ideology was put on an equal footing with Marxism! However, by that time it did not really matter. The statement did raise eyebrows in the ideological departments of some ruling Communist parties, above all, in Moscow. However, nobody had either the will or the means to enforce orthodoxy, and everybody knew about the rampant nationalism of North Korea.

The next step came in 1980, when the Sixth KWP congress deleted references to Marxism-Leninism, leaving Juche as the sole official ideology of the Party. Thus the KWP became the only part of the Communist bloc which did not actually claim itself to be an adherent of Marxism-Leninism, even though its practical policy was still perfectly in line with the Stalinist tradition. This was the clearest possible declaration of ideological independence, a break with the official traditions of the Communist camp.

Nowadays, Juche is considered to be not only the girding principle of the KWP, but also the state ideology of the DPRK. The North Korean Constitution makes this clear in Article 3.

It is quite common to say that one has to understand Juche in order to understand North Korea. Well, I would not subscribe to that opinion. Juche is simply too vague to be taken seriously, and the interpretation of its philosophy has changed countless times. In a sense, Juche is an empty shell, a term which includes everything the North Korean leadership considers “correct” at any given moment in time, but hardly anything else.


Recent DPRK market restrictions extended to mobility of the people

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

Institute for Far Eastern Studies
NK Brief No. 07-11-27-1

Following Kim Jong Il’s August 26 announcement that, “Markets have become anti-Socialist Western-style markets,” measures to increase restrictions on markets across North Korea have also restricted individuals’ ability to migrate.

The Central Committee of the (North) Korean Workers’ Party released a statement in October, revealing that Kim Jong Il had stated, “The current state of anti-socialism should not be moderately opposed. A strong and concentrated attack must be laid out in order to thoroughly eliminate [this anti-socialist behavior].”

According to the Daily NK, an informant inside North Korea revealed that authorities are “contacting people who have applied for permission to travel to other regions at their trip destination and setting up interviews in order to verify that interviewees are conforming with their [stated] intentions,” and, “ultimately, long distance wholesalers are restricted in their movements, cause a reduction in the amount of goods circulating on the markets.”

Good Friends, a South Korean NGO for North Korean aid, also reported, “In North Hamgyung Province, if someone is absent from work for two days or not seen in their neighborhood, that person’s actions are carefully investigated,” and, “if someone does not check out, each of their family members are called in for interrogation.”

After the ‘Arduous March’, as market activity grew in North Korea, the number of whole-saling ‘middle-men’ grew considerably. These traders received travel permits by applying under the guise of visiting authorities, family matters, special occasions, or other personal reasons. Long-distance traders need a travel permit. In order to get such a permit, cash or goods were frequently offered as bribes.

Now, as it is becoming more difficult to receive travel documents, not only long-distance traders but also even normal vacationers are facing growing difficulties. In particular, people who need to travel to China for family visits are especially worried due to the increasingly strict issuance of travel permits.

The insider reported, “As markets grow, because wholesalers are gaining power as they make large amounts of money, authorities seem to be strongly restraining them,” and “if a wholesaler is caught, his goods are taken, leading to difficulties for market traders.”

According to a North Korean defector in the South with access to DPRK information, university students in Pyongyang are also being subjected to increasingly strict personnel inspections and restrictions. Even when they go to the library, they must fill out an exit record and can only remain out for one day before student leaders pay a visit to their home.

Students not strictly obeying school policies have their bags and pockets searched while being put under investigation and being further restricted. Of course, in the past, as well, students with problems faced inspections of their dormitory or personal goods, but recently, inspections of even everyday students are on the rise.


U.S. denies North Korea diplomatic ties report

Monday, November 26th, 2007


A U.S. embassy spokesman on Monday denied a report by South Korea’s biggest daily that the State Department has stationed an employee in Pyongyang to lay the groundwork for opening a permanent liaison office in North Korea.

The State Department has an employee in Pyongyang but only to manage equipment for a team that is overseeing the disablement of North Korea’s nuclear facilities. The employee will be in the North through the disablement process.

“This is not for normalisation,” spokesman Max Kwak said.

There has been a rise in exchanges between the two countries after reclusive North Korea agreed this year to a multinational deal to freeze and then roll back its nuclear arms programme in return for massive aid and better international standing.

The Chosun Ilbo newspaper quoted an unnamed source in Washington as saying: “A U.S. State Department diplomat who handles administrative affairs has checked into a room in Koryo Hotel and has been using it as an office and accommodation.”

The State Department employee has been acting as an administrative liaison between the United States and North Korea, the source said.

The Koryo is one of the few hotels in Pyongyang open to foreign guests.

The United States has said if North Korea completely ends its nuclear weapons programme, Washington is willing to establish diplomatic ties with Pyongyang.
U.S. Diplomat ‘Permanently’ Stationed in Pyongyang
Choson Ilbo (h/t One Free Korea)

A U.S. diplomat has been stationed permanently at the Koryo Hotel in Pyongyang since mid-November, a source said Sunday. The development comes as U.S.-North Korea relations are improving as Pyongyang implements its promise to disable its nuclear facilities at Yongbyon by the end of the year.

A source in Washington said that the U.S. plans to dispatch another permanent diplomat to Pyongyang soon, with the Koryo Hotel likely to serve as a de facto U.S. liaison office in North Korea. This is the first time the U.S. has ever stationed a permanent diplomat in Pyongyang, and it suggests the possible normalization of relations between the two sides.

The Washington source said, “A foreign service officer in charge of administrative affairs from the U.S. State Department has been staying at the Koryo Hotel in Pyongyang, using his room as both an office and living quarters. He is mainly carrying out administrative liaison efforts between the U.S. and North Korea.”

The diplomat is apparently serving as a liaison officer for U.S. delegations to Pyongyang and figuring out their staying expenses there. The temporary U.S. office at the Koryo Hotel is said to be fitted out with exclusive telephone and fax lines and a computer with an Internet connection.

The U.S. is expected to dispatch a senior diplomat to Pyongyang who will handle political affairs when North Korea completes the disablement of its nuclear facilities. This senior diplomat will also participate in talks with Pyongyang and visit the nuclear sites at Yongbyon on a non-regular basis to inspect the progress of the disablement and dismantlement of the facilities.

Washington and Pyongyang agreed on this through meetings between chief U.S. negotiator to the six-party talks Christopher Hill and his North Korean counterpart Kim Kye-gwan and through “a channel in New York,” the source said.

The U.S. is expected to operate its temporary office in Pyongyang with a staff of two diplomats for the time being, with a view to upgrading the office to a regular liaison office or a permanent mission if North Korea clearly shows its intention to fully dismantle its nuclear programs.

The agreement to operate a de facto U.S. liaison office in Pyongyang suggests that the two sides strongly intend to improve their relations. Washington and Pyongyang agreed at the 1994 Geneva Accords to open a liaison office in Pyongyang upon concluding talks on the first North Korean nuclear crisis, but that agreement was never realized.


Musan Mine into Chinese Hands?

Monday, November 26th, 2007

Daily NK
Lee Sung Jin

An insider North Korean source said in a phone conversation on the 22nd, “With long-term suspension of exports for the break in China’s investment in North Korea’s iron ore production, the lives of citizens and the Musan Mine laborers have become extremely difficult. There have been talks that this might be the 2nd March of Tribulation (Mass starvation period in the 1990s).”

The South Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry released a report, the “North Korean Underground Resource Joint Development Strategy” on the 21th saying that China has cleared with a clean stroke North Korean minerals, Musan Mines being a representative example.

The report introduced the contract which gave 50-years-mining rights to the Musan Mine in North Hamkyung, which is North Korea’s best iron ore, for 70 hundred million Yuan (approximately DSD950 million) to China, which can take 10 million tons of iron ores from Musan every year for 50 years.

However, investment in Musan Mine, which was considered the China’s representative investment in North Korean underground resources, was ruptured due to the fact that opinions surrounding on the retrieval ways of shares and investment funds could not be narrowed down. Accordingly, Musan Mine laborers going through difficulty with the operation of the mine have fallen into a severe hardship in living.

The South Korean intelligence authorities confirmed the veracity of the breakdown in investment negotiation early June of this year.

North Hamkyung Province’s Musan Mine is a strip mine containing 30 hundred million tons of coal reserves, 13 hundred million tons of coals capable of digging and several hundred tons of steel concentrate, has offered these materials to the Kim Chaek and Sungjin Steel Mills, but with the unreliable operation of these mills, mining came to a halt in early 2000.

In 2005, the North Korean government closed an investment contract with the Chinese Tonghua Steel Group Consortium and China’s investment in Musan Mine began the fall of that year. As the exports of iron ore started, the North Korean authorities resumed the provision system to mine laborers and their families.

With the influx of many goods including food, gasoline, and construction materials as a reward for exporting iron ore to China, the lives of citizens in Musan have stabilized in these last two years.

However, the volume of production was known to have rapidly decreased with the cease in iron goods export to China and the rupture in joint investment with China.

The source said, “With the cease in iron ore exports to China, provision to the miners have ceased, which has incurred significant damage. We are in the ‘March of Tribulation’ again. When we are barely able to get by, something else occurs.”

The source introduced the current situation of withdrawal for Musan Mine laborers, “With only 500 thousand won (approximately USD 152), a person can get out of mining. It takes 100,000 won at the mina labor department and another 100,000 won to receive a diagnosis at mine hospitals and about 300,000 won to receive approval from the Safety Agency and the county labor department leaders as bribes. The despair of people are so heavy that people hope to come out of mining, even with the granting of provisions.”


Women of Hoiryeong Should Not Go out at Night

Sunday, November 25th, 2007

Daily NK
Lee Sung Jin

A source inside North Korea reported on the 22nd of November that all sorts of crime are rampant in Hoiryeong of North Hamkyung Province, and locals, especially women are so afraid that they dare not go outside at night.

The source said, “At meetings of people’s units, locals received instructions not to go out late at night and women were especially advised to get back home not too late.” The source added, “Most crimes are committed by soldiers who have been posted to Hoiryeong for construction work.

Since early this year, the North Korean authorities have been carrying out apartment building construction and road expansion work in Hoiryeong under the project named “Embellishing Mother’s Hometown.” Hoiryeong is known as the birthplace of Kim Jong Suk, Kim Jong Il’s mother.

This year celebrates the 90th anniversary of Kim Jong Suk’s birth, and many construction projects are being proceeded under the slogan, ‘‘Let’s invite our benevolent general to Hoiryeong.’’ Last year in November, a mosaic mural depicting Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il was installed in both Poongsan-ri and Daedeuk-ri in Hoiryeong.

Early May, the nation’s new prime minister Kim Yong Il visited Hoiryeong by train. His train was loaded with glass and cement, and the minister delivered the construction material to Hoiryeong’s people’s committee, leaving a message saying, “Hoiryeong is the birthplace of Kim Jong Suk. Clean up and embellish the entire city.”

As the authorities started carrying out the extensive construction work in Hoiryeong, it needed more labor power. Starting with last month, the state began to bring construction units of the People’s Army into the city for the expansion and pavement works of the road between Hoiryeong-Chongjin. It is the solders of these construction units who are responsible for ongoing violent crimes such as rape and plunder occurring in Hoiryeong

The source said, “Ever since those soldiers came to Hoiryeong, the city has been afflicted with many incidents and crime, all of which concern the city’s party committee to great extents.” The source said, “Even though October is the harvest season, there is not enough corn left for harvest in many cornfields around construction sites.”

What is worse, many households are being sacked by the soldiers, and local residents cannot leave home empty even for a moment, the source said.

The city’s party committee is casting suspicion on the soldiers. However, it cannot recklessly push for an investigation against the soldiers because the committee lacks hard evidence and the army has gotten too powerful over the years.

“A few days ago, there was an incident where a soldier broke into a house, raped a twenty-two-year old woman, and ran away,” the source said. “In order to protect themselves from the soldiers, each community has placed a guard at its people’s unit guard post twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and made sure that the guard reports to the People’s Safety Agency in case an incident takes place.”

Individuals who go to a night market and females who get back home from the market late at night are particularly vulnerable. The Safety Agency of Hoiryeong has decided to increase the number of patrols and ordered the locals to organize their own securities in their areas, the source said.

A defector who came to the South in 2006 said, “People used to admire the People’s Army. Nowadays, the Army is treated as a gang of thieves.” The defector said, “The army behaves highhandedly, and there are always conflicts in the areas around army bases.”