Stability-seeking Party cadres seek out illegal fortune tellers

Seol Song Ah  |  2018-01-03 11:51
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A new fad coinciding with the New Year is emerging in North Korea, in which fortune tellers are making house visits. More and more residents are interested in having their fortunes told, and are pursuing the banned service in secret to avoid punishment by the authorities. The concern exhibited by these residents is thought to be in response to the oppressive policies implemented by the authorities and economic uncertainty stemming from international sanctions.   

Recently, the authorities have been trying to rid the country of superstition by making examples of fortune tellers and face-readers, sending them to labor camps, a source in South Pyongan Province told Daily NK in a telephone call on December 29. However, people are always interested to know what fortunes the new year will bring them, so theyre asking around to try to find undercover fortune tellers. 

The Party cadres and the donju [North Koreas emerging nouveau riche] are even more keen to have their fortunes read. Fortune tellers who successfully advise the donju, steering them away from bad luck and towards good fortune, are even invited to their homes, the source continued.

Asked about the lengths that the donju will go to see the clairvoyants, the source added, Some donju will even pick up and drop off the fortune tellers in their cars. Once they arrive, theyre sometimes asked to read the fortunes of friends and relatives, so they might go around the neighborhood from house to house. 

In North Korea, practicing or promoting superstitious behavior is illegal. Article 256 of the North Korean constitution states, Those who receive money or goods in exchange for performing superstitious practices on multiple occasions will be sentenced to a punishment of a maximum of one year of labor [...] Those who teach multiple people about superstitious practices or bring about severe results through such practices will be sentenced to a maximum of three years of labor. In extreme cases, the penalty of labor will be from three to seven years. 

However, since the late 90s, the practice of fortune telling by face reading and using ones birth date started becoming popular. These days, some residents offer fortune telling services regarding business success in the markets, and some donju hire fortune tellers to protect their status and preserve their luck. 

When asked about the reason for the rise in popularity, the source answered, Getting ones fortune read is a way of seeking stability and affirmation, so it tends to be popular with those who face uncertainty, like Party cadres. So it seems inevitable that the fortune tellers will continue to visit their homes. 

Regarding the business dimension, she added, When the word spreads that a fortune teller is in the neighborhood, they will get requests from dozens of residents and end up earning quite a bit of money. The cost of having a fortune read can be anywhere from 5,000-50,000 KPW - enough to buy between one and ten kilograms of rice. 

As the sanctions campaign targeting North Koreas leadership continues, residents are becoming worried about their economic prospects. North Koreans have become distrustful of the regime, so they are turning to fortune tellers to seek comfort and insights about their future.  

As we enter the New Year, its difficult to guess how many fortune tellers have been arrested by the authorities. But we do know that these arrests are not going to be effective in eradicating superstition," a separate source in North Pyongan Province noted. "Instead of trying to solve the fundamental problems like providing food for everyone, the authorities are focusing on catching fortune tellers. This is driving up dissatisfaction."
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