Surveillance intensifies in Pyongyang in advance of Party Congress

Choi Song Min  |  2016-04-22 15:47
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With the preparation for the upcoming 7th Party Congress in the beginning of May in full swing, free movement in and out of Pyongyang has been banned. In addition, State Security Department and Ministry of Peoples Security personnel have been summoned to Pyongyang under the pretext of defending the Party Congress, with their presence accompanied by increased inspections, property searches, and a strengthening of guards for historic sites.

Immediately following the end of celebrations for Kim Il Sungs birthday, preparations for the upcoming 7th Party Congress went into full swing, a source in South Pyongan Province told Daily NK on April 20, noting that the authorities have entirely blocked all movement from other regions into Pyongyang, and ordered everyone who is traveling for business or visiting relatives in the capital to return to their homes.

Of particular note, anyone getting in trouble with the authorities during the Congress preparation period is being treated as a political offender and punished accordingly. They are creating a day-to-day atmosphere that is terrifying, said the source. Patrols by the Ministry of Peoples Security have teamed up with inminban [peoples units, a type of neighborhood watch] to visit not only the houses of ordinary people, but also hotel and motel rooms to check the identification of those staying in temporary lodgings.

With the goal of successfully pulling off North Koreas largest Party gathering to date without incident, blockades and security have been strengthened in Pyongyang. With approximately two weeks remaining before the big event, the degree of enforcement is being described as unprecedented. The excessive caution can be explained by Kim Jong Uns apparent obsession with solidifying North Koreas system through this event.

A conspicuous example of this is the shifting of defense manpower from the countryside to the capital in the name of total defense of the Party Congress. These personnel, who hail from every province in North Korea, have been dispersed to watch over Pyongyang intensely. This entails constant patrols near the bronze statues and historic landmarks, and even patrols of the subways and parks.

Both uniformed and plainclothes Ministry of Peoples Safety officers can be found lurking near subway entrances, scanning each passerby with intensity, according to a separate source in the capital. If anything remotely suspicious is seen, that person is detained, and has their identity checked and their luggage searched. In less crowded locations, State Security Department officers can be found spending their nights on the lookout hiding in bushes or even manholes.

In the countryside, day and night security patrols consisting of factory workers have been organized as well. Pairs of workers on guard can be found standing like statues in front of historic buildings. Inminban are also strengthening security around historic sites located in their surrounding regions, with town guards alert for potential disruptions from morning until late at night.

These measures, along with others including thorough ideological re-investigations of the populace, are indicative of the excessive atmosphere of strengthened enforcement and management ahead of the Party Congress. The authorities are also issuing continuous warnings, which are drawing displeasure from people across the country. It is not uncommon, the Pyongyang-based source said, for residents to quip, Lets see how many new bizarre measures they can come up with by the time this Party Congress rolls around. 

*Translated by Natalie Grant
*Edited by Lee Farrand

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