News of Kim Jong Nam's death travels on the grapevine

Kim Chae Hwan  |  2017-02-21 16:21
Read in Korean  
As shock spreads across the globe over the killing of Kim Jong Uns half brother Kim Jong Nam, the North Korean authorities are attempting to redirect domestic attention by focusing on festivities for what would be the 75th birthday of deceased leader Kim Jong Il. According to inside sources, the authorities closed the markets and gave residents a three-day holiday. 

An order was handed down from the central authorities for residents to rest and relax for three days, a source in North Hamgyong Province reported to Daily NK on February 17th. The doors to the jangmadang [markets] were closed and people are being encouraged to celebrate and sing songs in public.    

Another order placed the country on high alert for a special security period lasting three days while Kim Jong Ils birthday festivities took place."

The provision of a three-day vacation to mark the countrys most important holiday is being seen as an effort by the authorities to elicit loyalty and maintain control. However, the regimes continued attempts to promote idolization propaganda are producing tepid responses from the population. 

Despite the market closures, grasshopper merchants [who operate outside the official, fixed general marketplaces] have been active. There have been no special crackdowns on these merchants. Although the authorities have been tight-lipped about any information related to the killing of Kim Jong Nam, information is quickly spreading through the markets and across the country.  

People are indirectly discussing the incident by saying things like, Kim Jong Uns older brother came across some misfortune at the hands of his enemies after conducting activities overseas, the source said. This suggests that people are taking measures to protect themselves from retribution by packaging the news in sufficiently loyal terminology. 

A source in Sinuiju suggested a similar trend, saying, People are not talking about it directly. Instead, theyre saying, The older brother who was away overseas has died.

The sources predicted that the news will most likely continue to spread widely following the end of Kim Jong Ils birthday period. News about other Kim family matters - including the cyst in Kim Jong Uns left foot and Ri Sol Jus pregnancy - have also spread throughout the country thanks to merchants who travel far and wide, conveying news and information as they go.    

One high ranking defector added, These days, more and more people ask traveling merchants for the latest bits of news. That being the case, how long can anything remain hidden? There are currently no lectures about the incident, but if rumors about Kim Jong Nams death continue to spread, that might change. The news will be blamed on anti-republic factions in an attempt to drum up popular support. 

*Edited by Lee Farrand

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