Conversations from North Korea – Politics
We publish details from a phone interview with a North Korean citizen, currently living in Musan, about politics, society and the families of escapees. This report was first published in Korean on June 12, 2015.
New Focus conducted phone interviews with North Koreans inside the border. A woman living in Musan, North Hamkyung Province, provided comment on local North Korean citizens’ perceptions about and responses to the current political situation inside North Korea.
What are the local responses regarding the purge of Hyon Yong-Chol, Minister of the People’s Armed Forces?
People are not aware of Hyon Yong-Chol’s purge. The government has not released an official statement. People don’t even know that Hyon Yong-Chol is the Minister of the People’s Armed Forces, and they don’t much care.
North Korean citizens are well aware that executions take place frequently, not only public ones, but also secret ones. The important thing, however, is that they believe that whoever was executed indeed deserved that punishment in the eyes of the government. So people try to avoid topics like executions and have feelings of impartiality, instead of feeling antagonised by them.
We heard that currently, the North Korean government is reinforcing punishment measures against the families of escapees. Is this true?
It is true. The management of and special surveillance measures placed on the families of escapees have changed. Previously, due to the sheer number of families of escapees, only general surveillance existed around them. But these days, more terror is given to both the immediate and extended family of escapees who appear on South Korean media.
This fear is especially true of those families whose members include escapees who appear on the talkshow On My Way to Meet You. Some surveillance officers even visit the homes of families of escapees to say, “You better make sure your sister doesn’t go on that show.” It’s quite serious.
This year, Kim Jong Un has made many appearances inspecting army bases or factories, and generally showing a lot of interest in citizens. How do the North Korean citizens feel about this?
Kim Jong Il also made constant rounds of inspections. But it wasn’t as if the lives of the people improved at all because of it. Kim Jong Un always says that he does this to improve the lives of the people, but it is all show and not much more.
In fact, people are losing more faith in Kim Jong Un than they did with even Kim Jong Il. They are trying to rally up the people and instill them with fear. Inside, North Koreans view Kim Jong Un and his aides with dissatisfaction. Kim Jong Un’s inspections are not for improving the people’s lives, but rather, for trying to improve his image.
What is the extent of the dissatisfaction that North Korean citizens harbour towards their government?
It is increasing, more openly, day by day. It is because even though the leader may be different, the way in which the North Koreans have been abused and exploited by him is the same. The dissatisfaction towards the government naturally becomes a topic of conversation when with close friends or family.
But it definitely does not mean that there can ever be a revolt. There may be ordinary North Korean citizens who say that they will begin a rebellion, perhaps say it a hundred times, but nobody among them will act. If Kim Jong Un’s aides turned against him and started that kind of rebellion, about 70% of North Koreans would probably join the cause.
Reporting by Lee, Chulmu.
Read in Korean.