North Korean Citizens Warned Against 'Hostile' Speech

Even common phrases, spoken ironically, are seen as implying criticism of the regime.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un casts his ballot in an election widely regarded as a sham, March 9, 2014

North Korean citizens have recently been warned against the use in casual conversation of sarcasm directed against the regime of national leader Kim Jong Un, with state security officers threatening that even indirect criticisms of party leadership will not be forgiven, North Korean sources say.

The warnings were given in mass meetings organized by central government authorities across the isolated, one-party state starting at the end of August, the sources said.

“One state security official personally organized a meeting to alert local residents to potential ‘hostile actions’ by internal rebellious elements,” a source in Jagang province, which lies along the border with China, told RFA’s Korean Service this week.

“The main point of the lecture was ‘Keep your mouths shut!’” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Similar warnings were given at a meeting held in neighboring Yanggang province on the evening of Aug. 28, a source in the province said.

Warning his listeners to guard against being “dragged into internal hostile behavior,” the official conducting the meeting pointed specifically to commonly used expressions such as “This is all America’s fault,” which when spoken ironically could be taken to imply criticism of the regime.

“This habit of the central authorities of blaming the wrong country when a problem’s cause obviously lies elsewhere has led citizens to mock the party,” RFA’s source said.

Another expression, “A fool who cannot see the outside world,” has also spread quickly from government workers in Pyongyang who were shocked at Kim Jong Un’s absence at celebrations held in Russia and China to mark the end of the Second World War, the source said.

Expressions of public discontent with the North Korean regime have spread widely in the tightly controlled state this year, with graffiti mocking production slogans appearing at a construction site in Pyongyang and “more serious” scrawlings attacking Kim Jong Un personally found in areas near China, sources told RFA in earlier reports.

Reported by Sunghui Moon for RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Jackie Yoo. Written in English by Richard Finney.