Wealthy North Koreans protected in the past by their ties to ruling party officials are falling under new scrutiny over reported lawbreaking, with local authorities now ordered to conduct investigations into their assets and activities, sources say.
The order, originating with national leader Kim Jong Un and sent out to provincial officials for implementation, has already netted one well-known and influential figure in North Hamgyong province, a local source told RFA’s Korean Service.
“A head of the Northern Ethnic Chinese Committee from Chongjin city in North Hamgyong was recently taken to the State Security Department for questioning in secret,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“He is under investigation for having affairs with women including a police officer’s wife,” the source said.
The committee head, whose name was not provided by RFA’s source, had previously imported four shipping containers of goods from China each month, and had won special treatment from North Korea’s military by bringing in badly needed supplies, including munitions and spare parts for military vehicles.
“The Central Committee had overlooked his unlawful acts because he was dealing in munitions,” the source said.
“But Kim Jong Un’s directive not to ignore activity by the rich that breaks the law and disturbs public order was delivered at the Northern Ethnic Chinese Committee directors’ meeting held on Dec. 1,” he said.
Angered by reports
Kim had likely been angered by reading State Security Department reports on North Korea’s domestic situation, a second source told RFA, speaking from Yanggang province.
“He then ordered the State Security Department to look into the amounts of assets held by the rich, and into their illegal activities,” he said.
Other influential figures now drawing police attention include the family of 26-year-old Hyesan city businesswoman Cho Chun Shim, who had contributed thousands of dollars of relief aid to Yanggang residents affected by severe flooding of the Tumen River last year, the source said.
“Her father, brothers, and husband dominate the guesthouse business and sex trade in Hyesan, and there have been rumors that they have arranged for free sexual services for powerful local executives,” he said.
“Kim Jong Un has now stepped forward to root out unlawful activities by the rich, but I don’t know if he will be able to succeed,” the source said, adding, “The wealthy North Koreans who control the country’s economy have strong ties to influential officials.”
“It may not be so easy to uncover their illegal acts.”
Reported by Sunghui Moon. Translated by Leejin Jun. Written in English by Richard Finney.