North Korean police have started to strictly control the movement of residents and throw those without proper documents into detention facilities as they try to fill a gap in monitoring residents’ activities neglected by state security agents, sources inside the authoritarian country said.
The country’s Stasi-like secret police have been trying to control North Koreans following the regime’s purge of Kim Won Hong, the agency’s minister, who was expelled from office in mid-January on charges of corruption, abuse of power, and human rights abuses, they said.
Five senior officials from Kim Won Hong’s office were reportedly executed by anti-aircraft gunfire after they were charged with submitting false government reports that are said to have enraged dictator Kim Jong Un.
Police have issued an order prohibiting the movement of residents throughout the country as of April 1, a source from North Pyongan province told RFA’s Korean Service.
“The order says that people who have gone abroad for business trips or important matters must return to their residences by the end of March,” he said.
The ban includes the prohibition of movement on April 5 when North Koreans hold memorial services to honor their dead parents and ancestors with Korean food, he said.
The detention facilities and waiting rooms in police stations are filled with people who were picked up for not carrying their proper documents with them, the source said.
The police have said that the measure will be enacted in April to prevent unexpected incidents on April 15, the birthday of North Korea’s founder Kim Il Song (1912-94), who is the grandfather of the country’s current leader Kim Jong Un.
But he suggested that another motive was behind the recent move.
“I think the police have cracked down on the control of residents because they want to have the privileges that the State Security Agency used to have,” he said.
The Changjin county incident
A source from South Hamgyong province told RFA that the beating death of the head of a family by police in Changjin county earlier this month for not having the proper certificate required for travel on business has outraged residents across the country, the source said.
In all, police arrested six Changjin residents for lacking travel certificates, some of whom were beaten to death, he said. They sent the wife of the man beaten to death to a labor camp, and their young child to an orphanage.
“News of the incident that occurred with Changjin county’s police has been spreading throughout the country and has sparked the anger of residents,” he said.
Central authorities have not taken any action against the officers, even though the families of those arrested have revealed the tyranny of the Changjin county police, he said.
“I think these incidents are occurring because central authorities handed over part of the power of the State Security Agency to the police … [who are] taking control of judicial power, while the State Security Agency is struggling with the Kim Won Hong incident,” the source said.
Citizens are becoming increasingly resentful of the police because of the harsh treatment they are meting out, he said.
With growing resentment, “the police will also eventually be in a similar situation as that of the State Security Agency, which is generally feared and hated by North Koreans,” he said.
Reported by Jieun Kim for RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Soo Min Cho. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.