North Korean authorities monitoring domestic reaction to summit

Kim Yoo Jin  |  2018-05-03 22:35

The North Korean authorities are reportedly monitoring citizen reactions to last Friday's inter-Korean summit, focusing on potential backlash or negative effects of mentions of "denuclearization" in state media in the days following the event. Sources inside the country has described at least one instance of residents modifying their reactions to avoid negative repercussions from the initiative. 

A source in Ryanggang Province described a recent incident during a conversation with Daily NK on April 30, saying, "People were gathered around talking about the inter-Korean summit, when the Socialist Women's Union leader suddenly came over and informed them that 'the Party has issued orders for a domestic review of the people's reactions." 

"She also said that they should be more careful with their words and instead say positive things about the country's efforts," the source continued, saying that the remarks were a suggestion to the group to avoid problems that may arise if they are too open about their opinions of the summit.  

The source described how the gathering was an impromptu one, beginning with just a couple of people but growing in size after word spread. "The [Socialist Women's Union leader], whose husband is a Party cadre, actually said a lot of unconventional things at the gathering, she explained.

These so-called "residential zone women"– a term used in North Korea to refer to women who are part of the Socialist Women's Union and who are charged with the ideological education and socialist group activities of a number of households – have taken on the role of family breadwinners over the years through their market activities, subsequently rising in social status. 

Descriptions by a separate source in Ryanggang Province of one of these women openly acknowledging and suggesting tips for "expected behavior" in response to government orders represents a significant development, as she holds a position as an official local role model and thought-leader in the eyes of the state.

The Socialist Women's Unit leader apparently tried a number of times to encourage the group to speak positively about the government's efforts.

"She said that 'big changes are certainly coming' and that 'we should hold our tongues and have hope that the day will soon come that we can live easily,'" the additional source said. She also apparently described "denuclearization" as "an end to the production of scary weapons" when asked by someone in the group what the term meant. 

But despite the warnings people are receiving over expressing opinions about the summit, the source described frequently hearing optimistic talk of improving inter-Korean relations.

"Anywhere people are gathered, there are discussions of summit-related news, mostly expressing hopes about South Korea. One person said that 'relations will improve because [President] Moon looks like he's easy-going,'" the initial source explained.

"Embedded in these remarks is a sense of longing for the South and to go forward living as one people, together."

*Translated by Colin Zwirko

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