Kim Jong Un orders security agency to avoid “excessive” surveillance of North Koreans in border areas

North Korean authorities recently ordered citizens free from ideological suspicion to be excluded from surveillance, Daily NK has learned.

A source from North Hamgyong Province told Daily NK on Wednesday that the provincial branch of the Ministry of State Security held an emergency meeting earlier this month for senior and senior section officials. He said that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s September 29 orders were handed over to attendees, who then discussed efforts to secure those orders and issued the relevant guidelines.

According to the source, Kim’s September 29 orders were as follows.

First, the orders pointed out that the State Security Ministry “excessively” monitored residents along the Sino-North Korean border, which undermined the unity between the ruling party and the people.

Orders also noted repeated incidents of locals being deprived of their political rights after being unfairly treated as “unclean” elements, which has led to growing resistance from residents.

The source said the orders were made by ordering officials to keep the names of residents free from “particular ideological tendencies” off watch lists. Instead, officials should formulate “deeper measures” to ensure public livelihoods so that “not even a single deviationist emerges.”

A guard post on the Sino-North Korean border in Sakju County, North Pyongan Province. / Image: Daily NK

The source said public checks, repression and public scrutiny by legal, security and law enforcement agencies have been “stifling” since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. “There is growing discontent with the pressure to constantly monitor what you say and do,” he said.

The source said that district offices and inminban (popular units) recently shared the meeting’s discussions with the public. “It appears that the authorities are trying to assuage, at least a little, the dissatisfaction of residents suffering from food shortages due to the prolonged situation of the coronavirus,” he added.

There is speculation that the North Korean authorities have now recognized that they cannot focus their administrative efforts solely on public surveillance and have started working to end the practice.

However, excluded from Kim’s recent ordinance were so-called “unclean elements” such as families of defectors, returnees to the North, and Chinese-made cellphone users. Instead, the ordinance reaffirmed the existing policy that such individuals should be subject to at least “three levels” and at most “five levels” of supervision.

In fact, a man in his 30s in Nammun-dong, Hoeryong – identified by his surname of Chong – was arrested on October 12 after making comments about food shortages. Chong was repatriated to North Korea in 2019. He was arrested for openly making comments lamenting his current situation.

Because he had a criminal record for crossing the border illegally, he was reportedly sentenced to three months in a forced labor brigade for his comments.

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Louis Foulds

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