Secret police start annual propaganda performances 

Image | Rodong Sinmun

Propaganda teams organized by the secret police this month started touring the provinces and staging performances about attempted coups to educate the public in how to spot spies.

The events, which are held on farms and in factories and various companies, focus on glorifying the greatness of Kim Jong-un.

The performers enact cases such as an alleged assassination attempt on Kim Jong-un last year and an apparent attempt to burn down an election venue, sources in North Hamgyong Province confirmed.

One defector, a lady from North Hamgyong named Han, who fled across the Tumen River in March 2019 and arrived in South Korea last December, said she saw shows that featured the role of four provincial heroes who thwarted an earlier terrorist plot against Kim’s train. Their “struggles” were portrayed in poetry and song, she said. 

The performers demonstrate methods for detecting espionage activities and ways to report them.

The local efforts to educate ordinary people are part of a surveillance system that not only reflects the insecurity of the regime, but that is also the key to its ability to maintain rigid control.

The “Anti-Espionage Artistic Propaganda Teams” (APT) were created by the Ministry of State Security (MSS), North Korea’s dreaded secret police agency, and are managed on provincial, city and county levels.

According to defectors from the MSS and APTs, provincial, city, and county MSS offices submit annual reviews in December which include themes that need to be communicated to the public. They organize the teams and prepare performances in December and January, and in March, they start touring. The teams engage in regional competitions and provincial winners go to Pyongyang for a national event.

The MSS surveillance network features vertical surveillance based on workplace hierarchy along with a secretive horizontal system where informers monitor workmates and neighbors for counter-revolutionary ideas and behavior. This horizontal system is organized across all social sectors and classes.

The Youth League, General Federation of Trade Unions of Korea, Union of Agricultural Workers of Korea, Socialist Women’s Union of Korea, and other party and labor organizations conduct weekly, monthly and quarterly reviews of their members’ Life Review Sessions and submit reports to higher authorities. This is vertical surveillance.

At the same time, informants at each level, who take oaths of secrecy, monitor the thoughts of cadres and officials and provide the secret police with daily reports. This is the horizontal system. These internal spies do not know the identity of other agents in their organizations and, in this way, also monitor each other.

While these details are closely guarded, the existence of the system is known. The secret police is therefore about to instill fear and discourage “hostilities.”

The APTs function to inform the public of the existence of the surveillance network. The performances include content that is not publicized, such as investigations based on reporting by the secret workplace spies. Audiences are always shocked.

Eyewitnesses say they are led to feel that there is an invisible enemy in their midst and that the MSS is waging an invisible war against it.

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