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Unpaid Farm Work: Wealthy People in North Korea Bribe their Way Out of Mandatory Farming Mobilization

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Farming Mobilization
Mandatory Farming Mobilization: North Korean farm workers tend to a field on the outskirts of the capital Pyongyang, July 12, 2016. RFA
  • North Korea’s annual campaign to mobilize its population to do unpaid farm work has prompted wealthy citizens to bribe doctors
  • Authorities of the regime of leader Kim Jong Un require that male and female citizens mobilize to provide additional farming manpower
  • Rich citizens might be obtaining false medical papers to skip the mass mobilization
North Korea, June 6, 2017: North Korea’s annual campaign to mobilize its population to do unpaid farm work has prompted wealthy citizens to bribe doctors to issue false medical evaluations that exempt them from the compulsory labor, sources inside the country said.

Authorities of the regime of leader Kim Jong Un require that male and female citizens mobilize to provide additional farming manpower during the spring planting season and in early summer when rice is grown.

In response, wealthy North Koreans have been paying bribes to doctors at hospitals to issue phony diagnoses of medical conditions that will get them out of performing hard manual labor in the fields, sources said.

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An incident involving a drunken, wealthy North Korean who was returning to the capital Pyongyang by train during the mobilization period after visiting relatives in China, tipped off authorities that rich citizens might be obtaining false medical papers to skip the mass mobilization, said a source in North Hamgyong province which borders China.

The authorities arrested the man, who is said to be a merchant, when he displayed violent behavior. They discovered that he had a valid travel document which usually cannot be obtained during mass mobilizations, said the source who declined to give his name.

“Only rich people can get it by paying a bribe to officials,” he said.

The man also had been diagnosed as a spinal stenosis patient in need of long-term treatment for the condition in which the spinal canal narrows causing back pain and other nerve-related problems, he said.

“[Yet], he got drunk and got violent,” the source said.

“[The man] is known to be exempt from the farming mobilization by bribing doctors for a fake diagnosis,” he said.

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The authorities who arrested the train passenger alerted the Central Committee, the leadership body of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, which then ordered inspections of the People’s Hospitals, the source said.

The People’s Hospital in the Chongam district of Chongjin, capital of North Hamgyong province and the country’s third-largest city, is being inspected by professionals from the city’s Science and Education Department, who believe that doctors have been issuing false diagnoses in return for bribes so wealthy North Koreans have a legitimate excuse to get out of the mandatory farming mobilization, he said.

‘Powerless people suffer’

A source in North Pyongan province said that ordinary people who cannot afford to pay bribes and must provide the forced labor resent that wealthy and powerful people are getting medical exemptions.

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“Powerless people are suffering physically from farming, while some rich people are lounging around,” said the source who requested anonymity.

The amount needed to bribe a doctor to issue a false medical diagnosis valid for a month is about 200 Chinese yuan (U.S. $30), he said.

“Very wealthy North Koreans pay more to obtain a diagnosis that is valid for several months to a few years and become ‘long-term patients,’” the source said.

Though inspectors conduct probes of People’s Hospitals for false diagnoses every year, it has become a mere formality, the source said.

“If the false diagnostic statements are discovered, doctors can easily get away with it by bribing inspectors, so it is only the powerless people who are forced to participate in what is essentially slave labor during farming season.”

Other North Koreans are responding to the drive with satire.

“North Korean residents are taunting the Central Committee’s propaganda about farming mobilization that requires the participation of every individual if they have the energy to hold a spoon,” said the source in North Hamgyong province.

“They are ridiculing the propaganda by raising the possibility of avoiding the farming mobilization if they use chopsticks instead of spoons,” he said.

Mandatory mass mobilization campaigns, or “battles” as the regime likes to call them, are routine in North Korea, where the authorities use them to mobilize manpower for various projects and measure citizens’ loyalty to the state and Korean Workers’ Party.

Earlier this year, North Korean authorities imposed limits on the operating hours of local markets nationwide to encourage residents to go the fields and collect manure to use as fertilizer in light of a shortage of chemical fertilizer.

The move caused great discontent among locals, many of whom shop for food and other necessities during the day. (RFA)

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US, Japan, S. Korea Military Warns North Korea to stop Irresponsible Provocations

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General Joseph Dunford, left, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, shakes hands with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Abe's official residence in Tokyo, Japan. VOA

Hawaii, October 30: Senior defense officials from the United States, South Korea and Japan met to discuss the nuclear missile threats by North Korea.

The Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, hosted his counterparts – General Kyeong-doo Jeong of South Korea and Japanese Admiral Katsutoshi Kawano – at the U.S. Pacific Command headquarters in Hawaii Sunday.

“Together they called upon North Korea to refrain from irresponsible provocations that aggravate regional tensions, and to walk away from its destructive and reckless path of development,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Public Affairs Office said in a statement.

The three leaders also discussed multilateral and trilateral initiatives to promote long-term peace and stability in northeast Asia and to improve interoperability and readiness on a number of issues including mutual security, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and cyber warfare.

Monday South Korea’s foreign ministry announced that its representative to the six-party nuclear talks will meet with his Chinese counterpart in Beijing Tuesday to exchange analyses on the current North Korean situation.(VOA)

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North Korea may soon be able to hit US with Nuclear Missiles ; Could a war break out soon?

Pyongyang's deputy envoy to the United Nations, Kim In Ryong, warned Monday that war could break out at any moment.

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NORTH KOREA
CIA Director Mike Pompeo speaks during the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) National Security Summit in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)(VOA)

Washington, October 20, 2017 : North Korea is likely just months away from being capable of striking the United States with a nuclear missile, according to two top U.S. officials.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo told a forum in Washington on Thursday he is “deeply worried” about the advancing threat from North Korea and the possibility it could spark a nuclear arms race across East Asia.

“We ought to behave as if we are on the cusp of them achieving that objective,” Pompeo said when asked about Pyongyang’s pursuit of missile technology that could launch a warhead to targets in the U.S.

“They are so far along in that it’s now a matter of thinking about how do you stop the final step?” he added.

north korea
National security adviser H.R. McMaster speaks during the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) National Security Summit in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)(VOA)

McMaster: We’re running out of time

U.S. National Security Adviser, Gen. H.R. McMaster said later on Thursday that Washington was racing to resolve the situation, short of using military force.

“We’re not out of time but we’re running out of time,” McMaster said, speaking at the same event. “Accept and deter is unacceptable.”

The comments by Pompeo and McMaster come as tensions between the U.S. and North Korea have been steadily rising following Pyongyang’s latest nuclear test last month, it’s sixth overall, and repeated tests of what intelligence officials have assessed to be both intermediate and long range ballistic missiles.

But despite warning that North Korea is just months away from being able to target the U.S., the CIA’s Pompeo cautioned there are still questions about just how “robust” the North Korea nuclear threat has become, and whether Pyongyang will be able to deliver multiple nuclear warheads to nuclear targets.

“There’s always a risk. Intelligence is imperfect,” Pompeo said, adding there is evidence Pyongyang may be getting help from Iran, citing “deep conventional weapons ties as between the two countries.”

He also warned that each North Korean test makes an arms race ever more likely.

“You watch as North Korea grows ever closer to having its capability perfected, you can imagine others in the region also thinking that they well may need that capability,” he said.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures while answering questions at a meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club in Sochi, Russia (VOA)

Putin suggests force won’t work against North Korea

On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned against the use of force to eliminate the North Korean nuclear threat, suggesting it would not work.

“Talks about a preventative, disarming strike — and we hear both hints and open threats — this is very dangerous,” Putin said during a speaking engagement in Sochi.

“Who knows what and where is hidden in North Korea? And whether all of it can be destroyed with one strike, I doubt it,” he said. “I’m almost sure it is impossible.”

North Korean officials have also repeatedly warned the U.S. against any provocations.

Pyongyang’s deputy envoy to the United Nations, Kim In Ryong, warned Monday that war could break out at any moment.

Other North Korean officials have accused the U.S. of making preparations for war, citing the presence of the USS Ronald Reagan, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, conducting exercises to the east of the Korean Peninsula.

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4 Ships Banned From All Ports For Violating North Korea Sanctions

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South Korea's naval ships
South Korea's naval ships take part in a military drill for possible attack from North Korea in the water of the East Sea, South Korea. voa

The U.N. Security Council has banned all nations from allowing four ships that transported prohibited goods to and from North Korea to enter any port in their country.

Hugh Griffiths, head of the panel of experts investigating the implementation of U.N. sanctions against North Korea, announced the port bans at a briefing to U.N. member states on Monday. A North Korean diplomat attended the hour-long session.

Griffiths later told several reporters that “this is the first time in U.N. history” that the Security Council committee monitoring sanctions against Pyongyang has prohibited ships from entering all ports.

He identified the four cargo ships as the Petrel 8, Hao Fan 6, Tong San 2 and Jie Shun.

According to MarineTraffic, a maritime database that monitors vessels and their moments, Petrel 8 is registered in Comoros, Hao Fan 6 in St. Kitts and Nevis, and Tong San 2 in North Korea. It does not list the flag of Tong San 2 but said that on Oct. 3 it was in the Bohai Sea off north China.

Griffiths said the four ships were officially listed on Oct. 5 “for transporting prohibited goods,” stressing that this was “swift action” by the sanctions committee following the Aug. 6 Security Council resolution that authorized port bans.

That resolution, which followed North Korea’s first successful tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States, also banned the country from exporting coal, iron, lead and seafood products. Those goods are estimated to be worth over $1 billion – about one-third of the country’s estimated $3 billion in exports in 2016.

The Security Council unanimously approved more sanctions on Sept. 11, responding to North Korea’s sixth and strongest nuclear test explosion on Sept. 3.

These latest sanctions ban North Korea from importing all natural gas liquids and condensates, and cap its crude oil imports. They also prohibit all textile exports, ban all joint ventures and cooperative operations, and bars any country from authorizing new work permits for North Korean workers-key sources of hard currency for the northeast Asian nation.

Both resolutions are aimed at increasing economic pressure on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – the country’s official name – to return to negotiations on its nuclear and missile programs.

Griffiths told U.N. diplomats that the panel of experts is getting reports that the DPRK “is continuing its attempts to export coal” in violation of U.N. sanctions.

“We have as yet no evidence whatsoever of state complicity, but given the large quantities of money involved and the excess capacity of coal in the DPRK it probably comes as no surprise to you all that they’re seeking to make some money here,” he said.

Griffiths said the panel is “doing our very best to monitor the situation and to follow up with member states who maybe have been taken advantage of by the tactics deployed by DPRK coal export entities.”

As for joint ventures and cooperative arrangements, Griffiths said the resolution gives them 120 days from Sept. 11 to close down.

But “in a number of cases, the indications are that these joint ventures aren’t shutting down at all but are on the contrary expanding _ and therefore joint ventures is a major feature of the panel’s current investigations,” he said.

Griffiths also asked all countries to pay “special attention” to North Korea’s Mansudae Overseas Project Group of Companies, also known as the Mansudae Art Studio, which is on the sanctions blacklist and subject to an asset freeze and travel ban.

According to the sanctions listing, Mansudae exports North Korea workers to other countries “for construction-related activities including for statues and monuments to generate revenue for the government of the DPRK or the (ruling) Workers’ Party of Korea.”

Griffiths said Mansudae “has representatives, branches and affiliates in the Asia-Pacific region, all over Africa and all over Europe.” Without elaborating, he added that “they’re doing an awful lot more than producing statues in Africa.” (voa)