The abrupt execution of North Korea¡¯s defense minister Hyon Yong Chol has sent unsettling ripples of anxiety through the upper ranks of Pyongyang, prompting the state to cast a tighter net of surveillance on Party cadres. Hyon¡¯s family and those with close ties to him in the upper echelons of power are under strict surveillance, Daily NK has learned.
¡°Military and Party cadres in Pyongyang affiliated with Hyon are living in fear, not knowing whether they will fall victims as well,¡± a source from Pyongyang currently residing in the Sino-North Korean border area told Daily NK. ¡°They are keeping low profiles to make sure the leadership doesn¡¯t make an example out of them.¡±
He described Pyongyang as being "awash in tension" in the aftermath of Hyon¡¯s execution. ¡°In the month of May, there have been greater limitations on travel permits to other areas not only for residents but Party cadres as well. State Security Department [SSD] restrictions on mobility have also really been ramped up,¡± he explained.
He added, ¡°Key Party cadres looking to cruise around the city by car need to have a good reason for it and also need to report their exact route in order to receive permission. To make sure they don¡¯t get into trouble, a lot of them just stay within the confines of their office.¡±
Fortifying this oppressive grip has been the introduction of high-tech mobile phone wiretapping devices that allow the state to not only listen in on conversations but also scan and match a user¡¯s voice with his or her identity. ¡°Every word, every action is being watched,¡± the source asserted.
Others in Pyongyang, too, have been impacted by the measures. Travel permits to the border regions have been curtailed significantly--unusual for residents of Pyongyang, who are not typically seen as high-flight risks. Restrictions on business trips to other provinces or on total distance of travel involved were fairly lax for those in the capital, but the source asserts such practices have undergone a marked change.
¡°In the past, if any member of the donju [new affluent middle class] applied for a travel permit to Sinuiju in order to buy goods, the office under the Ministry of People¡¯s Security would issue it in a matter of days; now, however, they don¡¯t issue them at all,¡± he said, adding that travel permits once sold for 100 RMB on the black market are hard to secure now even at double the price.
¡°The SSD has been secretly stepping up its monitoring to contain rumors about Hyon and stamp out any talk that would negatively impact Kim Jong Un¡¯s authority. But for some time, chatter about the defense minister will continue on--just like the atmosphere of anxiety¡± the source concluded.
*The content of this article was broadcast to the North Korean people via Unification Media Group.
*Translated by Jiyeon Lee