'The Leech:' security official amasses fortune blackmailing residents

Unification Media Group  |  2017-06-09 01:08

Victims of human rights abuses in North Korea have virtually no recourse to seek justice and very few avenues to air their grievances. Unification Media Group is helping to provide a platform for these victims. The testimonies in this second edition have been obtained from inside sources and featured in broadcasts by radio back into North Korea.

Today were speaking with Daily NK reporter Lee Sang Yong. Can you tell us a little about the background on the story? 

An inside informant from Hyesan City in Ryanggang Province relayed this story to us by phone. According to the source, a commander at a Ministry of State Security (MSS) Conspiracy Research Office has been threatening residents and abusing his authority to extract bribes. 
Provincial offices of the MSS are tasked with monitoring the ideology and behavior of residents. The offices are also responsible for investigating and tracking down anti-state elements. Those arrested are classified as political prisoners and sent to kwaliso (political prison camps). The Conspiracy Research Office collects information from various sources, engages in international counter-espionage and sabotage, and is also charged with overseeing the country's border guards and immigration.
Due to its responsibilities, the Conspiracy Research Office has considerable powers of investigation over both border residents in North Korea and persons of interest like defectors in China. It has been reported that one particular young commander in the Conspiracy Research Office has been abusing his authority to blackmail people, and often threatens to harm relatives back in North Korea as extra leverage. 
Can you provide us with more details? 

One particular incident occurred in March. The commander is responsible for, among other things, the collection of information overseas and sabotage. According to the source, the commander asked a 20-year-old female living in Hyesan to demand that her mother (living in South Korea) send money. The commander is said to have taken 70% of the money and left only 30% for the female. The blackmail was paid in two installments of 40,000 RMB (5,873 USD). As the child of a defector, the young woman had no recourse for this injustice.   

Similarly, a 50-year-old woman from Hyesan Citys Hyemyeong-dong sent her daughter to marry a wealthy man in China. The commander, reminding the woman of orders from above to severely punish those who fail to report defectors, offered to look the other way in exchange for 30,000 RMB.    

It seems that he favors blackmailing the families of defectors.  
Yes, thats right. This woman responded to the commanders threat by saying, I dont even know how to spy. Even though he was asking for money, my heart was beating so fast, I just couldnt do it. So she ended up rejecting the commanders threat. He responded by saying, If I see just one word, you can be arrested as a spy. Did you know we can write the word spy on your forehead? You have failed to report the fact that your daughter is living in China. In the end, the commander received 10,000 RMB from the mother.  
In January, the commander forced a 30-year-old woman living in Chinas Simyang to call her mother and took the phone, saying, Due to your actions, your daughter is now in trouble. If you send 20,000 RMB, Ill return her to you and send her back without any further issues. The mother sensed the danger of the situation and sent the money. 
So the commander is using his position in the MSS to make money.
The commander is leveraging his role for his own selfish gain. Kim Jong Un ordered the families of defectors to undergo special ideological training in February of this year. It was promised that those families who stepped forward would be forgiven for not previously reporting their defector family members. But the commander has used the announcement as an opportunity to line his pockets. 
The residents understand that officials in the Ministry of State Security wield virtually unlimited authority. With a single word, they can decide the fate of a resident. It is impossible for residents to complain or protest about threats or actions carried out against them by the officials. By keeping quiet and paying the bribes, they know that their problems can disappear, so most choose the path of least resistance. 

Isnt this kind of corruption detrimental to the Ministry of State Security as a whole? 
This particular commander has reached a high rank at a relatively young age (33 years old). Most of the money he gets from blackmail is re-distributed to senior cadres. That is how he rose to the rank of commander so early. This also explains why senior provincial MSS agents permit him to engage in this type of corruption. 
Normally, MSS agents use threats of torture and violence to ensure obedience from the residents, but this commander instead used threats and blackmail to amass a fortune. That is why residents are referring to him as as The Leech. 

The fact that residents have no one to complain to about this type of corruption must make it that much harder to deal with. 
Residents have plenty of gripes, but nowhere to air them. The MSS has absolute authority as the core department of the regime. The residents know that the Conspiracy Research Office is part of the MSS, so instead of making public complaints, they have little choice but to comply with the commanders demands. 
The Ministry of State Security is considered to have the highest degree of loyalty to the party and the leadership. When those with lower social status have tried to complain about the abuse of power by corrupt officials, it has only created more problems for them. So most victims have no choice but to endure the injustices committed against them. 

*Edited by Lee Farrand

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