North Korean Flag Caper Causes 'Fully Mobilized' Investigation

2016-04-28
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North Korean flags fly during a during a mass rally in response to an address by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Jan. 5, 2015.
North Korean flags fly during a during a mass rally in response to an address by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Jan. 5, 2015.
AFP PHOTO/KCNA VIA KNS

In the city of Chongjin, North Korea, the night of April 15 looked like the perfect time for a caper or an act of treason.

The authorities should be preoccupied with the rocket launch celebrating the 104th birthday of the country's late founder Kim Il Sung. The sky should be clear.

The national flag in front of Chongjin’s city hall should be fluttering in the light breeze. That is, if there was a national flag in front of city hall. On the night of April 15, the flag was gone.

On the holiday known as The Day of the Sun, someone or some group stole the flag, and in North Korea that is both a caper and an act of treason.

“The North Korean national flag was raised on the flag staff at the government office in the city of Chongjin during the day, but it disappeared overnight without a trace on April 15th, the day of Kim Il Sung’s birthday,” a source from North  Hamgyong Province told RFA’s Korean Service on April 22nd.

“Whoever did this, seemed to have broken through the strict, special defense net, and eliminated the national flag,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The Kim Jong Un regime is serious about North Korea’s national and political symbols. In March a North Korean court sentenced University of Virginia student Otto Frederick Warmbier to 15 years of hard labor for trying to steal a political banner during a trip there. The third tallest flag pole in the world stands near the Korean Demilitarized Zone.

In Chongjin, North Korea’s third largest city and the capital of North Hamgyong Province, they are taking the flag theft very seriously.

Significant matter

“Law enforcement authorities were fully mobilized for the investigation, as the elimination of North Korean national flag is a significant matter,” said the source.  “The elimination of the North Korean national flag in the center of Chongjin city is a very serious incident. This has put authorities on emergency alert in North Hamgyong Province.”

It’s not the first time someone or some group has stolen a flag from a highly-visible visible government facility, sources tell RFA.

Another flag theft on Sept. 9, 2015 has also apparently gone unsolved, sources tell RFA. That heist occurred on another important political holiday known as Foundation of the Republic Day.

“The national flag that was raised on a flag staff disappeared on the opening day of an athletic competition at Hyesan Stadium in Yanggang province,” a source told RFA. “Instead, a black plastic bag on the flagstaff looking like a croaker (fish)was raised on a flagstaff.”

With the Kim regime brooking little dissent, the flag attacks appear to be a way some North Koreans express their dissatisfaction with the dictatorship.

“It seems that lowering the national flag was an expression of somebody’s hostility towards the system or dissatisfaction,” the Hamgyong Province source said.

Reported by Jieun Kim for RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Jackie Yoo. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.

CH. 1: MANDARIN | CANTONESE

CH. 2: VIETNAMESE | BURMESE | KOREAN

CH. 3: KHMER | LAO | UYGHUR

CH. 4: TIBETAN

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