A picture drawn by defector Jang Han-gil about a public execution he witnessed. He drew it in 2000 while in China after his escape from North Korea.

North Korean authorities are cracking down on disorder and crime among the younger generation through ideological struggles and public trials. It is using fear to intensify its attempts to change how young people think. (Jiwon Kang / Jiro Ishimaru)

◆ Four young people face public trial for robbery and practicing superstition

According to several reporting partners in the northern region of the country, Kim Jong-un's regime has issued instructions to Workers' Party organizations and security (police) forces across the country to punish young people for disorder, "non-socialist acts," and crimes, all based on its policy of making 2024 a "year of struggle to achieve revolution among the youth.”

A concrete example of this happened on February 22, which is when a "public exposure meeting" (public trial) for young people was held in Hyesan, Yanggang Province. A reporting partner who attended the event described what happened during the trial as follows:

"Three men and one woman, including one former soldier, were tried. One was sentenced to two years of imprisonment for theft, robbery, and superstitious behavior. The officials also read out the names of seven (other) people and said they were being investigated."

Religious practice is banned in North Korea, and even divination and prayer are criminalized as superstitious practices.

The public trial was held in Hyesan and a large number of young people were mobilized to watch.

"The participants were mainly university students, high school students, and young adults. They did not ask the Women's League or neighborhood watch units to participate. The youth were informed that 'concealing illegal activities is also a crime.’”

On February 23, the US-based RFA (Radio Free Asia) also reported on the “public exposure meeting.”

◆ “Ideological struggle” meetings held at workplaces to criticize youth

The authorities are also demanding that businesses take "measures against youth.” At the beginning of the year, companies were instructed to submit plans to the authorities on how to control disorderly behavior by young people and how they will make efforts to educate young people ideologically. A specific example of these “measures” are the "ideological struggle" meetings that have become commonplace inside companies. Another reporting partner in Hyesan said:

"In February, a factory in Hyesan held an ‘ideological struggle' meeting for all employees. Four young women were put on the 'criticism stage' for having stolen products and for engaging in superstitious behavior. Fourteen people came up one after another to criticize the four people’s actions. Afterward, a discussion was held.”

These “ideological struggle” meetings are used to condemn people. As with the aforementioned public trials, the regime's goal is to control the behavior of young people by punishing them in front of many people, to terrorize and shame them, and to set an example to others.

◆ In December, people were forced to watch public executions

In December of last year, a public execution of a man in his 20s who committed murder in an attempt to extort grain was held in Hyesan. The event was attended by a large number of youth alliance members from factories and businesses in the city.

They were made to walk in formation from their workplaces to the Hyesan Airfield, where the execution took place. Those mobilized were given front-row seats from the beginning of the trial to when the execution took place, according to a reporting partner who was present at the trial.

The Kim Jong-un regime's tightening of control over the youth is a sign of the increasing incidents of disorder, disobedience, and crime among young people.

※ The Socialist Patriotic Youth League is a youth organization affiliated with the Workers' Party. It is mostly composed of workers and students under the age of 30.

※ ASIAPRESS communicates with reporting partners through Chinese cell phones smuggled into North Korea.

A map of North Korea (ASIAPRESS)