Home of Kim’s Mother Leafleted

Leaflets critical of the North Korean leader are scattered in his mother’s birthplace.

2010.07.08
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Kim-Jong-Suk-305.jpg A screen grab from a Korean Central Television film about Kim Jong Suk shows her holding Kim Jong Il as a child, Sept. 21, 2009.
Yonhap News Agency

SEOUL—More than 100 leaflets denouncing Kim Jong Il were distributed in the hometown of the North Korean leader’s mother in June, according to residents.

The leaflets were scattered late in the evening on June 25 or early on June 26 in Hoeryong city at the Osanduk-Dong School Village, in front of a statue commemorating former leader Kim Il Sung’s first wife, who died in 1949.

Law enforcement officials from Hoeryong city and state security department offices in Northern Hamgyeong province were mobilized to investigate the situation, a provincial resident who asked to remain anonymous said.

“All area residents were subjected to a compulsory investigation looking into each individual’s whereabouts on the night of June 25 and in the early morning of June 26,” the source said.

“Local community leaders were collecting written statements from all area residents.”

Hoeryong2.jpg
Heavily patrolled area

According to sources, the leafleting occurred just 150 meters away from the Hoeryong Historic Pavilion, a site in Osanduk-Dong guarded by security agents, where the statue and birth house of Kim Jong Suk, Kim Il Sung's first wife, are located.

Near Osan Elementary School, School Village has the lowest crime rate in Hoeryong city due to round-the-clock patrols and surveillance by law enforcement, security authorities, and workers’ brigades.

But despite the heavy security, someone managed to distribute the leaflets undetected by authorities.

In a June 30 telephone interview, a 29-year-old university student at the Hoeryung College of Education who called himself Han Kyung Chul, described the leaflets.

“The leaflets were handwritten with thick, probably Chinese-made, color marker pens—not on [letter-sized] paper, but on paper torn out of diaries available at open door markets,” Han said.

Han said the leaflets contained slogans such as “Down with Traitor Kim Jong Il!” and “Overthrow Kim Jong Il, Enemy of the People!”

About 30 leaflets were scattered around four different places, he said, adding that they were likely hard to collect afterward due to their small size.

Investigation under way

State Security Department officials are currently investigating persons who may have been wandering about Osanduk-Dong on the night of June 25 and in the morning of June 26.

In particular, residents said, persons involved in illegal gambling have been rounded up and taken to the State Security Department office.

Nonresidents who were in Hoeryong at the time the leaflets appeared were also summoned for questioning regarding their personal or official reasons for being in town.

According to Han, an entire wedding party in the Yeokjeon-Dong district of Hoeryong was taken to the State Security Department Office and subjected to aggressive interrogation.

Han said the questioning involved beatings administered with sticks and sleep deprivation that put many of those interrogated in the city hospital.

Acts of discontent

According to North Korean defectors from Northern Hamgyeong province, residents of Hoeryong receive plenty of food rations because the city is the hometown of Kim Jong Il’s mother.

They also say that inhabitants enjoy better living standards than in the rest of the country because of the city’s proximity to the Chinese border where goods are readily available.

But according to two sources in Shin Poong Ri and Chungki Ri, Hoeryong city has been the center of several acts of discontent in the last few months, despite these benefits.

On May 22, the two said, Kim Jong Suk’s birth house was targeted in an act of attempted arson.

And on June 17, authorities responded to a fire at the Hoeryong Paper Mill caused by the burning of a large amount of old North Korean currency.

Pyongyang scrapped its old currency in late November and allowed its people—whose economy has been in freefall since the mid-1990s—to exchange only a limited amount of the old money at a rate of 100 to 1.

The move wiped out the savings of millions and sent prices skyrocketing.

Original reporting by Moon Sung-hui for RFA’s Korean service. Korean service director: Max Kwak. Translated from the Korean by Grigore Scarlatoiu. Written in English by Joshua Lipes. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.

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