Authorities in North Korea are supplying officials at the powerful prosecutorâ€™s office with yearly rations of coveted rice at a time when the country cannot even supply most people with corn, sources in the country told RFA.
Though rice is a basic staple in other East Asian countries, it has become a luxury in North Korea, which suffers from food shortages made worse by the coronavirus pandemic. Steamed rice at a North Korean dinner table is a status symbol, and daily meals of rice separate the haves from the have nots.
Ordinary people are aware that prosecutors are provided with a yearâ€™s supply of glutinous and white rice, and they are becoming resentful, an official in the city of Chongjin in the northeastern province of North Hamgyong told RFA Wednesday.
â€œOn the 3rd, I heard about it from my wife. She was at a college friendâ€™s birthday partyâ€¦ and her friendâ€™s husband is a chief prosecutor at the provincial prosecutorâ€™s office. He bragged to them about it,â€ said the source, who requested anonymity for security reasons.
â€œThe ordinary residents do not receive any food rations at all. Officials of the provincial party committee or the provincial peopleâ€™s committee, which are the most powerful organizations in the province, receive the national food ration. But even they donâ€™t get rice like the prosecutorâ€™s office,â€ he said.
The official said he was aware that the prosecutorâ€™s office was powerful, but he never knew just how much privilege they enjoyed.
â€œThe prosecutorâ€™s office belongs to the local distribution system and receives food from the local food administration officeâ€¦ The fact that the prosecutorâ€™s office was able to receive an entire yearâ€™s worth of rations all at once, and all of it was rice, proves how privileged and powerful they are,â€ the source said.
â€œThe provincial food administration bureau workers who allocate food to each region and unit would have had a hard time filling the request of the prosecutorâ€™s officeâ€¦ Since the prosecutorâ€™s office took all the rice, the bureau did not have enough to put it in rations for workers in steel mills and coal mines, and they received their rations in corn instead,â€ said the source.
â€œI am not sure if the city prosecutors and district prosecutors also received preferential rations like the provincial prosecutors did, but either way it is an outrage because ordinary people are having a difficult time without receiving any rations at all,â€ he said.
Since prosecutors interpret the law, they wield the most power, an official in the city of Hyesan, about 140 miles to the west of Chongjin, told RFA Thursday.
â€œWe all know that prosecutors live better than officials at other agencies,â€ said the second source, who requested anonymity to speak freely.
â€œIf the prosecutorâ€™s office carries out a general inspection or investigationâ€¦ people start trembling. What the prosecutorâ€™s office wants, they can get,â€ he said.
The Chongjin official said the prosecutorâ€™s office is an exclusive group staffed by only 50 people, compared to the party committee and the peopleâ€™s committee, which have hundreds.
â€œThere are many things that the prosecutors get for free. Though their numbers are small, they are at the highest level,â€ he said.
â€œSince corruption and bribery is so common, prosecutors who can inspect, investigate, and prosecute can increase their wealth by just doing their job. I know several prosecutors, but none of their wives need to work for a living,â€ the second source said.
Women are typically the primary breadwinners in North Korean society, as the men must work at government-assigned jobs and earn a salary too low to live on. Most families must start businesses of their own and only the women have time to run them.
â€œSo, my friend, who has connections, was moved to the prosecutorâ€™s office from the city party organization department. People at the party organization scoffed at him and showed sarcastic responses about him becoming a prosecutor, but they actually seemed envious,â€ the Chongjin official said.
â€œThe largest and most beautiful buildings in any city are not the Peopleâ€™s Committee buildings, or those of various government organs, but the buildings of law enforcement. The tyranny and corruption of prosecutors, state security officers, and police officers in this county are severe, so the people’s resentment against them is very high.â€
Translated by Leejin Jun. Written in English by Eugene Whong.