The Best Identity in North Korea Is Being Pyongyang’s “Front Road” Resident

Daily NK
Kim Min Se

Behind Pyongyang’s welcoming crowd at the time of the Vietnamese Communist Party’s Secretary General Nong Duc Manh and President Roh Moo Hyun’s visits, buildings, apartments, and residential homes could be spotted.

Residing in Pyongyang itself can be considered upper-class in North Korea. Defectors say that civilians who live apartments surrounding the city’s highways represent the highest class within North Korea.

North Korea calls roads that Kim Jong Il uses frequently or is able to use as “front roads.” The factor which is considered the most when allocating residents on these roads is preventing terrorist directed toward Kim Jong Il.

To reside in surrounding apartments of Pyongyang’s roads, potential residents have to go through a strict background search. Party members in Pyongyang, municipal party leaders, influential persons of the army and the administrative branch receive first priority. Besides this, average residents have to pass stringent background investigations.

It is difficult for even Pyongyang civilians to reside a day in these apartments. Even when visiting parents and siblings, it is not easy to stay overnight.

Ms. Kim, a defector from Pyongyang, said, “To reside in an apartment adjacent to Pyongyang’s front roads, we have to go through the National Security Agency, the Safety Agency, and Party investigative agencies. This is because all kinds of “top-ranked events” related to Kim Jong Il frequently occur on the road.

Ms. Kim said, “If a ‘top-ranked event’ is planned or is going on, the residents of nearby apartments have to undergo daily lodging inspections almost daily.”

Ms. Kim said, “A key aim of the inspections is to prevent illegal lodging of outside civilians (from zones other than Pyongyang) in these apartments. This is to prevent any outbreaks from possibly occurring at the events or when Kim Jong Il’s car passes by.”

She also said, “Even when residing in Pyongyang, people cannot freely stay at the apartments of parents or siblings near the roads. If one has to stay over, no matter the time of the night, he has to go to the Safety Agency, report to the officer in charge, register in detail information about family and kin, and get approval.”

Lee Ae Ran, a defector, said, “It is very important for Pyongyang residents to live near the “front roads.” That is a measure of the confidence North Korean authorities have in you and these residents receive better treatment than other civilians.”

Ms. Lee said, “At the ‘World Youth Student Festival,’ held in Pyongyang in `’89, all apartment residents were given a set of color TVs due to the fact that foreigners can suddenly drop by. Another time, the state provided ham only to the residents living near the ‘front roads,’ so Pyongyang residents called this region the ‘ham region’ and areas that are not near the roads ‘non-ham regions.’”

Ms. Lee was also said, “Civilians who live near the roads also suffer a lot. Daily street-cleanings are a must and people have to clear roads even in the middle of the night during winter.” When asked if cleaning snow is challenging, she was noted as saying, “If the snow is not properly cleared, the Great’s Leader’s car will be at risk on the icy roads.”

In North Korea, where Kim Jong Il’s safety is considered top priory, most Pyongyang residents were expelled to remote areas on account of their family backgrounds up until mid`70s.

Mr. Kim said, “The authorities banished residents of the capital to the rural areas regularly, just as one weeds a garden regularly.”

Ms. Lee said, “I don’t know how many people were purged to the countryside. When I tried to find a high school classmate in Pyongyang back in `92, only 16 out of 53 had remained. Most likely, over 50% were banished because of their family backgrounds.”


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