Hwang Jang-yop Speaks

North Korean Society


    The North Korean population has been conditioned from a very young age to accept the words and deeds of the elder and junior Kims to be absolute truth. The greatest meaning in life lies in becoming "bullets and bombs" in defense of Kim Jong-il.

    A rigid vertical hierarchy remains the prime feature of North Korean society, an essentially feudal social order with Kim Jong-il at the top of the ladder, plus a noticeable absence of personal relationships between individuals.

    The food crisis caused by the collapse of the economy has made procurement of food the greatest priority not only among the citizenry, but even minor cadres and the police responsible for maintaining keeping the populace in line.

    There are rising voices for opposition to isolationism, and the necessity of reform and openness, among college students and powerholders. However, they have not yet led to open and explicit criticism of the Kim Jong-il's policy mistakes.


    The North Korean populace is categorized into three types referred to as Basic, Chaotic, and Enemy classes, depending on their background and social origins, apparently in direct contradiction of its stated ideal of a 'classless society.'

    The government of North Korea has organized Citizen Registration Groups to analyze the entire populace according to their social and family background, and their conduct during wartime, on eight separate occasions after the conclusion of the Korean War.

    The Public Security Agency (formal police force) and the National Security Bureau (a de facto secret police) were established as the main organs for the control of the populace. The number of personnel has been increased threefold after Kim Jong-il's entry into politics in the mid-seventies, and airtight controls have been established over the population.


    The North Korean government has conducted periodic dispersions of the population of Pyongyang, on grounds of restructuring and reducing the size of the central government. Population control in the city and preparations for war, however, have been cited as the actual reasons.

    Case in point: Residents labeled as 'impure elements' were forced to leave the city after the Pueblo Incident in 1968.

    A sizeable percentage of residents was evacuated, on the excuse of the imminence of war, following the Axe Murder Incident at Panmunjom in 1976. This response was repeated in 1994, when another group of residents was sent to the provinces with "Pyongyang Resident Certificates."

    Those subject to dispersion and periodic evacuation are those who have been transferred elsewhere, criminals, or 'unruly elements,' who nonetheless constantly manage to find their way back to the capital after repeated attempts to make them leave.


    Kim Jong-il has expressed worries about the international community raising human rights as an issue in addition to concerns over nuclear and chemical weapons. Its human rights law is a merely formalistic document without substance, and it is safe to assume that human rights are non-existent in the country.

    "Restricted Areas," as concentration camps are called in North Korea, were established as a result of the August Faction Incident of June 1956, when Choi Chang-ik and Yoon Kong-heum were accused of plotting against Kim Il-sung.

    Kim Il-sung stated that "factional elements have errors filled to the top of their heads, and must be isolated deep in the remote mountains," thus justifying their internment.

    (The first of the camps were established in Dukchang mines, near Pukchang, South Pyongan province, in 1958, and followed by additional camps at Seungho-ri in Pyongyang, and other locations around the country. Internment was reserved for "factional elements" at first, but the criteria were expanded to include all voicing criticism of the elder and younger Kims, turning the critics into political prisoners.)

    Concentration camps for persons of very short stature were set up in Jungpyung, in South Hamkyung province, after express orders from Kim Il-sung to isolate them to "prevent dwarves from multiplying."

    Dramatic increases noted in the number of public executions: Kim Jong-il has ordered zero tolerance for assault against PSB personnel, and authorized them to shoot to kill following a mob assault against policemen in 1992, thus precipitating the increase in executions.

    Seven cadres and actors/actresses were disclosed to have produced X-rated films for sales overseas in 1995, and were executed in front of a crowd of 300000.


    Disintegration of the "socialist ethic" has led to dramatic increases in crime starting in the late eighties. Poverty remains the primary cause, coupled with "survive-at-all-cost" attitudes instilled into men during military service.

    Criminals are incarcerated in provincial penitentiaries (one in each province), or in jails at city or county police stations. The convicts are organized into virtual chain gangs for work at nearby construction sites or factories.

    The Sinuiju penitentiary in North Pyongan province is reserved for female convicts. The facility was relocated to South Sinuiju at an unspecified date.


    Kim Jong-il cronies such as Kim Kuk-tae, Kim Ki-nam, Cho Myung-rok, Kim Yong-soon, Yi Ha-il, Lee Chang-sun and other close associates of Kim Jong-il live in an apartment complex situated next to Party Headquarters, in luxury living quarters comprised of two apartment units combined.

    Reserve members of the politburo and officials above deputy prime minister level are provided automobiles at state expense, Mercedes-Benz 380 for Politburo members and 280 for the bureaucrats.


    Ranking cadres are under surveillance much tighter than for ordinary citizenry, up to and including planting listening devices at home, and watching their every move.

    The party operates under a level of discipline surpassing that of the military. For example, public self-criticism is the punishment for being a minute late after lunch.

    Kim Jong-il suspects the high-ranking cadres of being the most likely to foment rebellion, thus precipitating maintenance of tight monitoring over their ranks.


    The level of corruption is inversely proportional to rank, and is most severe at the county and village levels, as front-line organs of the state.

    Incidence of corruption is highest in the party and government's trading and foreign exchange departments, and almost equally severe in departments responsible for housing and employment.