A mountain that has been cleared to the top. There are hardly any trees. Photographed from the Chinese side of the border with Musan county, North Hamgyong Province in May 2010 by Li Jin-su

According to reporting partners in North Hamgyong and Yanggang Province, North Korean authorities are forcing citizens to cremate the buried remains of ancestors and relocate tombs away from mountains and farmland. In an attempt to secure the land and restore forests, the regime has placed the burden of relocating ancestral tombs on residents, causing widespread discontent. (Kang Ji-won / ISHIMARU Jiro)

According to reporting partners, the measure was ordered by the Central Committee of the Labor Party, before being passed to the party committee of each province, and ultimately delivered to residents at inminban (local political unit) meetings. The order was received before cheongmyeongjeol on April 5, the traditional day for tending to tombs. In a move to transition away from burials to cremation, subsequent burials are banned, with bodies to be cremated instead.

The first tombs to be relocated were those around roads and railroads. The first period of relocating ended on April 10, with a second round to be completed by June 10. Graves that have not be relocated are not to be tended to any longer and will soon be disposed of by authorities.

A reporting partner from Yanggang Province complained, “Why are they interfering with the tombs of our ancestors? They told us not to bury our relatives for the next 3 years- many people are anxious that if we move the tombs hastily, 3 generations of graves will be destroyed. Especially the remains of ancestors that have been buried for a long time- how are we supposed to relocate the remains when nothing is left? Residents are awfully worried.”
Next page : Residents complain that “Authorities are ordering cremations to make money”…

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