The Daily NK is reporting on “an explosion in the number of casualties resulting from popular resentment” of the series of draconian economic diktats I call The Great Confiscation. These include the cancellation and reissue of the currency, which wiped out the savings of millions of people overnight; the ban on foreign currency; and the closure of markets — first in Pyongyang, and if rumors are accurate, in Chongjin and Hamhung this spring. Via Curtis, we have North Korean confirmation that in addition to restoring total dependence on the state, the moves were also designed, to restate matters bluntly, to screw the people and steal their money, even if it starves them.
Not surprisingly, this made a lot of North Koreans very angry. More surprisingly, North Koreans are so angry that a lot of them aren’t hiding it. Instead, they’re on the verge of open rebellion. Among the disturbances that followed the Great Confiscation were angry protests by ajummas in the markets, people burning piles of currency in protest, and a riot in Hamhung that ended with 12 executions. And that is not all:
[I]n Pyongsung, North Pyongan Province, normally one of the key distribution centers in North Korea, there have been several incidents of agents from the People’s Safety Agency (PSA), the organization charged with cracking down on the smuggling of food and other officially “immoral” acts, being attacked by unidentified assailants.
A Daily NK source reported on Monday, “A group of agents who had just finished doing the rounds of the jangmadang and alley markets in Naengcheon-dong, Haksu-dong, and Cheongok-ri in Pyongsung were attacked by a number of people, who assaulted them and immediately ran away. As a result, PSA officials are feeling very tense these days.
The usual cautions apply.
There have been more examples unearthed in recent days, too. For instance, North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity (NKIS), a Seoul-based defector group, recently received news that “a fight broke out between agents of the PSA, who monitor the Hyesan jangmadang, and some residents. As the fight turned serious, one resident snatched an agent’s gun and fired randomly into the crowd. One agent, Choe, is in a critical condition.
According to NKIS, the fight began after the PSA agents beat up a trader who was trying to avoid the crackdown, and that made other residents angry, so they attacked the agents in return. As the fight grew more serious, agents threatened residents, but this only added fuel to the flames.
Finally, a Daily NK source from North Hamkyung Province released one other incident: Cho, who used to work for the Prosecutions Department of the National Security Agency in the region, was apparently killed by a Chongjin Steel Mill worker called Jeung Hyun Deuk.
The source explained, “Jeung’s father, the chief of a foreign currency-generating company, was interrogated last July on suspicion of embezzling enormous amounts of property and foreign currency, and in January was sentenced to life in prison. However, a few days after being imprisoned, he died. Thereafter, Jeung held a grudge against his father’s interrogator, Cho, and eventually killed him.
The Daily NK reports that part of the reason why people are fighting back is that they’ve concluded that they have nothing to lose anyway. Some would rather go down fighting if the alternative is slow starvation, something plenty of them have seen happen. As a result of all this discontent, the Anjeonbu and the Bowibu are launching a “50-Day Battle” to root out dissenters.
A few thoughts I’ll add to this:
First, has there ever been a place so achingly in need of a revolution as North Korea? Sure, the Nazis were more evil in the grand scheme of things, but at least they could build autobahns and put food on the shelves.
Second, I read somewhere that some guy somewhere (I went to public school) said that “when a government becomes destructive of these ends” — referring life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — “it is the right of the people to alter, or to abolish it.” Yeah, but who still believes that?
Third, and for those Machiavellian realists who discard the previous thought out of hand, if North Korea can sell small arms and man-portable surface-to-air missiles to Iran and its terrorist clients — possibly to include the militias that are killing American soldiers — would it be so wrong or a completely ineffective deterrent for us to “lose” a few truckloads of Tokarevs in some place where discontented North Koreans could find them?