April 19, 2024
N. Korean security officials increasingly turn to extortion of money changers, remittance brokers

FILE PHOTO: A view of Yanggang Province from the Chinese side of the China-North Korea border. (Daily NK)

North Korean security officials in the China-North Korea border region are increasingly turning to extortion of money changers and remittance brokers to make money, Daily NK has learned.

“State security agents in Sinuiju have been using the illegal businesses of money changers and remittance brokers as an excuse to extort money from them. Recently, the agents have even taken their electronic devices with them,” a source in North Pyongan Province told Daily NK on Wednesday.

According to the source, a state security agent stopped by the home of a money changer in Sinuiju on Mar. 6 and demanded a bribe of RMB 1,000 (USD 138). When the money changer asked the agent to come back in the middle of the month because he was broke, the agent insisted that he hand over a car battery instead.

A car battery is worth RMB 2,000 (USD 277), or twice the amount the agent had originally demanded. But the money changer was afraid of the consequences of resisting or refusing the agent’s demand, so he reluctantly gave up the battery, the source said.

Then, on Mar. 8, another Sinuiju resident who works as a remittance broker had to hand over his power converter to a state security agent when he could not come up with the USD 150 the agent wanted.

“The state security agents arrange for others to sell the extorted items cheaply, thus making money. This brazen extortion by state security agents who demand electronic devices when there is no money to spare has started to cross the line, and the rumors are fueling resentment against the agents,” the source said.

The typical targets of state security agents are money changers and money transfer agents, whose businesses are considered illegal in North Korea. People involved in these areas have no choice but to bribe state security agents to look the other way, and the agents actively exploit these relationships to line their own pockets, the source explained.

“State security agents are supposed to live on food rations provided by the state, but these days even those rations are not very reliable. So to make a living, the agents are increasingly resorting to extortion,” the source said.

“It would be strange for agents not to be involved in corruption if they don’t get the rations they are owed. In the end, the whole burden falls on the shoulders of ordinary people.”

Translated by David Carruth. Edited by Robert Lauler. 

Daily NK works with a network of sources living in North Korea, China, and elsewhere. Their identities remain anonymous for security reasons. For more information about Daily NK’s network of reporting partners and information-gathering activities, please visit our FAQ page here.

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