Ryanggang SSD agents extort donju on false spy charges

Kim Chae Hwan  |  2016-09-03 11:48

Recent months have seen a growing number of North Koreas donju (newly affluent middle class) in Ryanggang Province being expelled to remote mountain areas or placed in political prison camps on charges of espionage. This is a direct result of security agents in the region fabricating allegations to extort money, putting donju at grave risk.

High-level cadres from the provincial State Security Department (SSD) office have been hunting down donju to extort money from them, a source from the province told Daily NK in a telephone conversation. Ive heard that just in the city of Hyesan alone, some 20 donju have fallen victim to the anti-espionage unit, which operates under the auspices of the Ryanggang Province branch of the SSD.

This news was corroborated by multiple sources in Ryanggang Province.

Security agents are notoriously corrupt and their interests are not only focused on money. Recently, an SSD cadre tried to force a female donju to provide sexual favors, but failed. The woman was then accused of being a spy engaging in anti-Republic scheming, an example of how the agency can wield its power to attack those who fall out of favor.

The majority of donju who were forcibly exiled or detained in political prison camps this year had maintained strong ties with Party officials and members of law enforcement (prosecutors, security and safety agents), routinely receiving protection from them in return for bribes, reported the source.

However, seeking further wealth, security agents have increased their pressure on donju to offer larger payments - in some cases directly requesting unusually high-end goods such as luxury import cars instead of cash.

In the event that donju turn down a request, the agents consider methods to seize their assets, such as charging them with allegations of espionage. Refusal or failure to pay up on a single occasion, despite a history of regular payments, is enough for a donju to be dragged away to a political prison camp, the source emphasized, adding that Kim Jong Uns policy banning the use of Chinese mobile phones to establish contact with the outside world (a practice common among residents in the border area) is frequently employed as a pretense for punishment.

If youre lucky, you only get expelled to the mountainside, but most arent able to avoid being sent to a political prison camp, she added. "The security agents then seize all of the assets of those penalized, and repackage them as loyalty funds to offer up to the leadership, while pocketing a portion of the money for themselves.

Meanwhile, residents in the region are becoming increasingly cognizant of the donjus plight and therefore aware that having significant sums of money in North Korea can be just as much of a concern as having little to none.   

*Translated by Jiyeon Lee
*Edited by Lee Farrand

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