Making money from crime in North Korea
How does bribing your way out of the criminal law system work in North Korea?
According to a recent development in North Korean criminal law, the reduction of a prison sentence or avoidance of incarceration is possible if the accused in question pays a fine. Such fines may be used as one means to support the completion of various construction projects coinciding with the 70th anniversary of the Worker’s Party, in which funds are often lacking.
Min Guk-Cheol (32) escaped North Korea in September 2014 and is currently living in South Korea. Min explains, “There are various categories of crimes in North Korea. The standard criminal category includes larceny, rape and assault, whereas political crimes like making political statements or disobeying a command of Kim Jong Un is considered unforgivable.
North Korean police officers can demand payment, depending on the type of crime, to fill their own pockets. But for political crimes, no bribes, however large, must be accepted by any law enforcement and they cannot engage in transactions with them.
This is because corruption in the case of political crimes leads to severe consequences for those involved. But police officers accept bribes for regular crimes readily, as though it were official protocol. Most of the crimes in these cases are theft. Those who cannot pay the bribes have to be punished.
Police officers present the accused with a sort of test. They determine how much money they have at present, and whether they have friends or family that can provide additional funds to bail them out. After this, the police demand payment from the accused quite openly, in return for their assistance in reducing their penalties.”
Min continues, “The fine increases depending on what crime the accused is being charged with. People who can bribe police and escape incarceration can boast, while innocent people who have no money can be convicted in their place.
North Korea’s police force and judiciary can enforce their interpretation of the law as if it were law, and it must be obeyed. A criminal having freedom of speech is deemed rebellion in the face of the government.
But North Koreans can now approach criminal law with the understanding that those who can pay are innocent, those who cannot are guilty. “If the system of bribery fines could be made formal in North Korea, the judicial authorities and officers would see it as a golden opportunity. But it would only add further to the pain and despair of many others.”
Reporting by Lee, Cheol-Mu.
Read in Korean.