New system to reward people for reporting on their neighbors

Kim Jong-un is strengthening control over people’s economic activities against regime’s discipline by rewarding whistle-blowers (Image: Vesa Airio, Courtesy of Shutterstock, Inc.)

North Korea is taking a leaf out of the capitalist book to incentivize citizens to turn in people engaged in illegal economic activity.

While betraying neighbors was previously considered a patriotic duty, it has now become another means to make money.

The harsh directive came out of a meeting of police where Kim Jong-un instructed police to tighten social discipline to block the inflow of outside information.

He called for an “uncompromising struggle against all illegal activities that could hamper economic development and an improvement of people’s life,” according to the KCNA.

Kim was speaking at the Fifth National Conference of Branch Heads of Public Security Substations on April 30. The first such meeting since 2012, it involved around 3,500 substation chiefs.

It is the first time that North Korea has paid people to report illegal activity.

“This new reward system is causing a lot of strife among people,” said one source inside North Korea. 

“Street vending is prohibited, but a lot of ordinary people depend on it for their day-to-day survival. So, they are appalled. Meanwhile, old people who stay at home and have nothing to do are happy for a way to earn money,” he said.

The system pays people according to the severity of the alleged crime. Besides applying to actual criminal behavior, it also applies to the sale of unauthorized goods in markets by people who have not applied for sales permits. Street vendors are therefore a major target. 

Although similar to systems in other countries for reporting illegal parking and other violations, the difference is that the reward for the informant is not paid by the state but extracted from the victim.

“Once caught after a report, regardless of the reason, a person has to pay a fine of at least 400,000 to 500,000 won,” the source said. The police give 200,000 to 300,000 won to the informant.

Although it appears to be an initiative to crack down on crime, the real intention is to strengthen controls.

Police on June 9 apprehended a woman in her 40s near a school in Hoeryong in North Hamgyong Province who was selling ice cream to passing students. He confiscated her product, wrote a report, and imposed a large fine. The next day, a man in his 70s boasted to his neighbors that he had reported the woman and had received a 200,000 won reward.

“Previously, street vendors only had to avoid safety officers or the patrol team,” the source said, referring to the auxiliary police who wear red armbands. “But now they have to be wary of everyone they meet. Many have already given up.”

Zane Han

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