(Photo) Residents say they are worried about impoverishment and crime. Women gather in a residential area to talk. Photographed in Hyesan City in August 2013 by ASIAPRESS.

◆ Field Survey in Chongjin, N. Korea’s Third Largest City

Crime is on the rise across North Korea. In particular, there has been an increase in robberies, thefts, burglaries, and other incidents- reflecting the country’s current economic difficulties. Indeed, there is widespread concern among ordinary people about the deterioration of public safety. Our reporting partner, who lives in Chongjin City in North Hamkyung Province, the third-largest city of North Korea, investigated the worsening crime situation (Kang Ji-won).

The research was conducted at the end of September in the Songpyong area along the coast of Chongjin City.

“I heard that about five incidents are happening each night and that fear among residents is growing. This is because criminals are getting bolder and bolder. They even dress up like riot police of the security bureau, assault people out of sight, rob them, and threaten them with knives under the guise of crackdowns and checkpoints.”

The following is an actual incident that occurred in the Songpyong area at the end of September, as investigated by our reporting partner.

◆ Increase in Crimes Committed by Discharged Military Personnel as Social Discontent Grows

In the evening, two men wearing inspection team armbands falsely accused a man of not properly wearing a mask and took him into an alley to inspect his luggage, before beating him up and stealing his bicycle, watch, and rice.
※ The inspection team is an organization dedicated to enforcing social order. It is composed of civilians.

In a separate incident, a woman working as a seafood wholesaler was attacked by a group of men on her way home from Songpyong Port and robbed of her bicycle, money and watch. Her husband, who had accompanied her just in case of danger, had his arm broken. The attackers were most likely discharged military personnel.

"The Security Bureau claims to be stepping up its crackdown, but crime is not decreasing at all. Therefore, the security bureau has decided to collect the records of those who have had their indoctrination (prison) sentences reduced through amnesty as well as those with criminal records. The security officer in charge makes those individuals report every time they go to work, relocate, etc. However, there are many cases where not only those with criminal records but also those who are struggling to make ends meet are involved in crime," said the reporting partner.

In addition, there have been many cases of discharged military personnel who were deployed to rural areas (after completing their military service this spring) committing violent incidents and robberies in urban areas, and the security authorities consider them to be an important target for special attention.

The discharged soldiers have been strongly dissatisfied because they were "forcibly assigned" to cooperative farms, the poorest of all occupations, after serving eight to ten years in the military for the nation.

※ASIAPRESS contacts its reporting partners in North Korea through smuggled Chinese mobile phones.