Rapid reaction forces latest group to siphon bribes from merchants

Kim Chae Hwan  |  2017-10-27 15:01
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Local North Korean officials were reportedly shocked recently when, according to sources in Hyesan, Ryanggang Province, merchants selling illegal items pushed back against Rapid Reaction Forces that were demanding bribes.
"Earlier this month, on the anniversary of the Party's foundation (October 10), authorities from the Rapid Reaction Forces (RRF) began circling the jangmadang in Hyesan 'in accordance with the holiday', demanding bribes from merchants. However, many pushed back or fled the scene, with some responding, "How many times have we already had to pay the authorities this month?" a source in Ryanggang Province informed Daily NK on October 24.

Kim Jong Il established the RRF under the Ministry of Peoples Security (MPS) and tasked the unit with "stamping out the subversive elements of society," and those attempting to incite anti-government riots. The primary directive of the organization was to suppress civil unrest and 'protect the Dear Leader and his rule'. However, since Kim Jong Un came to power, the group has been converted into another profit-generating arm of the regime, tasked with extracting money from the people. 
Bribes demanded by the RRF come in addition to the other fees merchants must already pay to the market's management unit, the police, and Ministry of State Security (MSS) agents on national holidays. The rise of such official activities is yet another outcome of the rampant corruption embedded in the country's systems. 

Considering RRFs origins and official objectives, the prevailing opinion is that they have no business invading the markets and harassing merchants. Residents have pointed out that there are three other government organizations already fulfilling that role. 
"On top of the already chaotic situation in our country, it seems that every person that gains any power just uses that to exploit the people and take every last dime they have, even from the poor and downtrodden. There is no hope left for the people, and nobody in power to help them," a separate source in Ryanggang Province said.
"The authorities have no reservations about destroying people's lives. The mere sight of the authorities in the markets is driving people to new levels of fear as more and more money is extracted from the people."

*Translated by Colin Zwirko

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