According to a “confidential document” recently acquired by ASIAPRESS, Kim Jong-un was made aware of an incident where a manager at a prominent construction agency beat to death one of his underlings for allegedly stealing his cell phone. The manager then poured diesel fuel on the body and cremated it to cover up the crime. (ISHIMARU Jiro)
◆ What was the aim of spreading word of the gruesome incident among government officials?
The document acquired by ASIAPRESS is entitled, “confidential”: Ratified by Supreme Commander Comrade Kim Jong-un on December 3, 2022 / Report on the beating death of an employee, falsely reporting the death as due to a heart valve failure, and cremating the body.”
The document was published by North Korea’s secret police, the Ministry of State Security, and includes an outline of the incident along with response measures ratified by Kim Jong-un. The document does not include any descriptions about instructions or orders made by Kim, which suggests that the document was published to spread word of the incident within the government.
The document does not specify the date in which the incident occurred; however, it may have occurred in the latter part of last year given that Kim Jong-un signed off on the document on December 3.
◆ Company commander kills underling for allegedly stealing cell phone, then burns body
The gruesome incident occurred in Sariwon, which is a city in North Hwanghae Province. The people involved in the incident were part of the 216 Division, one of North Korea’s “shock brigades” that manage construction and infrastructure projects.
“Shock brigades” are run like the military. The company commander of the brigade beat up an underling for allegedly stealing his cell phone while he was sleeping, killing him. The commander was scared about his crime being uncovered, so he reported to his superiors that the man had died of a heart valve failure and then poured diesel fuel on the body and cremated it.
◆ What are a “shock brigade” and the “216 Division”?
“Shock brigades” are, on their surface, volunteer-based, but in reality, participation in them is half-coerced because each workplace, organization and school have personnel quotas. Workers in the shock brigades are not paid much, either. Typically, people serve around 3-5 years in the brigades, which are mobilized to work on infrastructure and construction projects throughout the country.
The “Youth Alliance Shock Brigade,” which is affiliated with the “Socialist Patriot Youth Alliance,” a youth organization under the Workers’ Party, is a massive organization with over 1 million members. The 216 Division is also affiliated with the youth alliance.
South Korean media reports suggest that the 216 Division’s first appearance in North Korean state-run media was in November 2016. The 216 Division is a particularly large organization among the “Youth Alliance Shock Brigades,” and has been mobilized to work on railway and power plant projects, construction work on tourist sites in Samjiyon, and flood recovery projects. The “216” in the division’s name refers to Kim Jong-il’s birthday, which is on February 16.
◆ What does the confidential document say?
Below is a part of the document about the incident. Areas marked with parenthesis are those added by the editor.
“The commander of the Third Company of the Sariwon Battalion, which is part of the Railway Construction Brigade in the 216 Division’s North Hwanghae Province Regiment, beat to death a member of his company after his cell phone went missing and, fearing the consequences of his actions, falsely reported that the man had died of a heart valve (failure), and then cremated the body. Based on an investigation into the incident, the company commander was sleeping in his quarters when he discovered his cell phone missing. He believed one of his men to have taken it and beat the man several times while demanding the cell phone back in the company’s temporary barracks. When the man died, the commander, fearing the consequences of his actions, falsely reported to the regiment battalion that the man had died of a heart valve failure while sleeping before taking 30 kilograms of diesel fuel from the regiment’s supply department and cremating the body at a cremation site.”
While it is impossible to know why it was the Ministry of State Security (the secret police) that issued the document, the document states that it was ratified by Kim Jong-un and sent to the Ministry of Social Security (the national police agency).
※ ASIAPRESS smuggles Chinese cellphones into North Korea to maintain communication with its reporting partners.
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