A government-ordered crackdown on petty crime in North Korea is failing to gain effect, with suspects offering bribes to escape punishment and ordinary citizens increasingly mistrusting the courts, sources in the country say.
Arrests on charges ranging from drug use and robbery to disorderly conduct are now filling the jails, a source in North Hamgyong province told RFA’s Korean Service.
“But the crime rate continues to rise,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Each police station waiting room is filled to capacity with people under arrest, and visitors wait in long lines each day to see those who have been taken into custody,” he said.
The Sunam area of North Hamgyong’s Chongjin city is especially well-known for its levels of crime, RFA’s source said.
And because suspects there are sent by police either into labor camps called jipgyeolso, set up for people not yet convicted of any crime, or into regular prisons or places of “reeducation” called gyohwaso, bribes to the police or judicial authorities are freely offered, he said.
“Residents know very well that criminals will not be punished by the courts according to the gravity of their offense,” another source in North Hamgyong told RFA.
“Even if a person has committed a serious crime, he can avoid punishment by paying a large amount of money,” he said.
“On the other hand, those who are poor or powerless are sent to a place of ‘reeducation,’ or at worst they may be sentenced to death by firing squad.”
The bribes that are paid are offered in amounts corresponding to the severity of the crimes for which the arrests were made, the source said.
“And people who are sentenced to a place of reeducation will be released immediately if they pay the officials 1,000 to 2,000 Chinese yuan [U.S. $147 to $295, approx.],” he said.
This corruption in the courts has only made attempts to control crime more difficult, with criminals involved even in smuggling or trafficking in drugs now easily escaping punishment, sources say.
Reported by Jieun Kim for RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Hyosun Kim. Written in English by Richard Finney.