MSS official abuses her authority to exploit Hoeryong residents

[As Heard in North Korea]
Unification Media Group  |  2017-05-30 09:04
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Human rights violations are rife in North Korea as the dictatorial regime tightens its grip on power. As various government departments are responsible for enforcing the regimes control over the people, residents have no avenue of appeal when miscarriages of justice take place. Daily NK is publishing testimonies from victims of human rights violations in North Korea, submitted by North Korean citizen journalists residing within the country, as well as transmitting these statements back into North Korea via Unification Media Group's radio broadcasts.

This case has been reported to Daily NK by a source who, for security reasons, can only go by the alias Lee, a resident of Hoeryong City, North Hamgyong Province. Lee reports that a senior MSS anti-espionage agent in Hoeryong City, Major Kim Sun Ok, has been abusing her authority and exploiting residents. Regional anti-espionage agents often wield absolute power and extort large sums of money in the name of cracking down on the use of Chinese mobile phones.
Major Kim has reportedly been engaged in corruption and extortion under the regimes authority. She is notorious for her brutality, which includes beatings and torture of residents for money and information. For these reasons, Hoeryong citizens refer to her as oppasi (a Japanese loanword for wasp), a term reserved for particularly cruel security agents. It is said that Major Kim is sadistic and relentless, and no one escapes her grasp if caught.

Unification Media Group [UMG]: Can you describe the specific details related to Major Kim?
Lee: A man in his 40s was arrested in mid February for making a call to South Korea with a Chinese mobile phone. In the process of the investigation, Major Kim extorted a total 20,000 RMB (about 327,000 KPW) from the man, demanding money twice before the man was released after two months in custody.
Another woman in her 30s who lives in Nammun-dong, Hoeryong City, was arrested under the same charges by Major Kim. Her husband also had to pay the bribe twice, first 5,000 RMB (about 820,000 KPW) and then 7,000 RMB (about 1,195,000 KPW) to get her released.
The North Korean Penal Code stipulates that those who extort bribes are subject to up to a year of labor training, and if the case is severe enough, they are subject to correctional labor for up to three years. But in reality, taking bribes is ubiquitous throughout North Korea and rarely leads to such repercussions.
UMG: MSS (Ministry of State Security) agents commonly extort residents, so why is Major Kim being particularly criticized?
Lee: Major Kim is feared by the residents because she tortures residents without regard. It was reported that she severely tortured the woman mentioned earlier even after her husband paid her the bribe money. She does this to warn them that if they report the case to the state, she will eventually track them down.
She reportedly strikes the victims genitalia with rods and clubs, even after receiving the bribes. This is why she earned a reputation as a malicious agent. She prefers to release those arrested only after she is confident that they will not be a liability for her in future. 
UMG: North Korean agents are known to try and persuade and threaten people with particular brutality. Is Major Kim a particularly extreme case?
Lee: Yes. Major Kim tries at first to persuade the residents to reveal the supplier of the mobile phone, saying, "If you tell the truth, you will be forgiven." But this is just a trick. After she receives the incriminating information, she starts to beat them, allegedly for lying.

Once she starts attacking them with a club, she wont stop even if she breaks their ribs. She continues to beat them until a payment is made, and has been known to nearly kill people. 
UMG: What do think is the fundamental reason that allows Major Kim to continue unchecked?
Lee: Major Kim cleverly makes use of Kim Jong Un's instructions. For example, last year Kim Jong Un announced that anyone using smuggled Chinese phones was a traitor, and Major Kim used the order to exploit the residents.
She knows that it is better for the accused to pay bribes and be released than to be branded as a spy and be dragged off to a political prison camp.
UMG: Why dont the authorities punish those like Major Kim who are breaking the laws and thus disobeying the instructions of the supreme leader?
Lee: From the standpoint of the North Korean authorities, Major Kim is loyal. She voluntarily enlisted in the MSS in the footsteps of her husband, who died in 2011 while working for the MSS as head of a political department in Hoeryong City.
From her first day in the MSS, she pledged allegiance to the Party and the Suryong (Supreme Leader), quickly revealing her penchant for brutality while strictly abiding by the principles of the regime. Therefore, she is regarded as a model of integrity within the MSS.
But to the residents she is referred to as evil because she continues to threaten and torture people for money. 

UMG: Can residents appeal against such injustices?

Lee: Residents have a lot of complaints, but there is no avenue for appeal. They are afraid of Major Kim's retaliation if they try to report her.

Major Kim would no doubt enlist other MSS agents to determine who reported on her. The other agents would also earn a lot in bribery money by doing this. In addition, she is very meticulous in preparing money for the authorities. Therefore, people are reluctant to report her actions, as it is highly likely that their efforts would be quashed.

*Translated by Yeije Kim
*Edited by Lee Farrand

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