Kotchebi, the Homeless, Under the Kim Jong-un Regime
ASIAPRESS reporting partners inside North Korea said that, “The number of kotchebi has drastically decreased under the Kim Jong-un regime as compared to the last decade where they gathered at markets and transportation stations all over the country.”
An ASIAPRESS reporting partner working as a middle manager at an administration reported that, “The government ordered the building of orphanages, and to clear all kotchebi from the streets, and to shelter all of them there [the orphanages]. Rumor has it that it is because Comrade Kim Jong-un was angered because South Korean and Japanese TV programs have repeatedly broadcasted the kotchebi topic.”
This reminds me of something essential to my job. Since North Korea restricts the flow of information, it is difficult to verify the information given by interviewees. Therefore, the ASIAPRESS reporting team where I belong has dedicated itself to only presenting information to the public that has strong strong evidence. Obtaining this first-hand information from inside North Korea such as photos, voice recordings, videos, and documents is of the utmost significance for us.
Related Article: More Kotchebi Homeless Children Under the Kim Jong-un Regime
Reporting partners inside North Korea have secretly taken videos at numerous provinces since the early 2000s. A lot of kotchebi could be seen in the footage. Any city had a number of kotchebi at markets and in front of transportation stations. Japanese, South Korean, American, and European media have repeatedly broadcasted those scenes.
The North Korean government has consistently shown the sophistication of central Pyongyang to foreigners; through the state media they have propagandized how “developed” North Korea is. The revelation of the kotchebi to the outside world has weakened the intended effect of this propaganda and has ended up tarnishing the dignity of the absolute leader Kim Jong-un. If Kim Jong-un himself ordered the detention of the kotchebi it would mean that he is operating with hostility toward the leaked footage of the kotchebi to the outside world, which can be seen as ‘strong evidence’ of his failures to address the poverty in North Korea. The regime built up to date and large-scale orphanages in Pyongyang and Wonsan. He has repeatedly visited there and conveyed his “love towards the children” by staging a photo-op of hugging children and patting their heads.
Regardless of the effort the kotchebi still continue to exist in North Korea. Children are still turning into kotchebi because their parents are dead or have abandoned them due to their inability to take care of them. Numerous people in North Korea still suffer from extreme poverty. The social welfare system operates in name only since its collapse in the 1990s. There is no systemic safeguard in North Korea for those who are vulnerable to falling into extreme poverty. If Kim Jong-un seriously wants to eradicate the kotchebi then the fastest way would be to re-build the social system in which the people are able to get the support they need, not by building large luxurious orphanages intended for propaganda use only. (ISHIMARU Jiro)
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