North Korea sentences two cadres to life sentences for smuggling rice from China

North Korean authorities recently tried several cadres in Chongjin, North Hamgyong Province, who imported rice from China in violation of state quarantine policies.

A source in North Hamgyong Province told Daily NK on Thursday that officials from the provincial court and provincial and city branches of the Ministry of Social Security took part in a trial for “residents who committed anti-socialist and non-socialist acts” at the cultural center in Chongjin’s Sunam District on Nov. 10. He said two cadres were given life sentences for smuggling rice from China in defiance of the government’s emergency quarantine rules.

According to the source, the two cadres were turned over to the court for “violating the closed border” to engage in smuggling after receiving in June a special order from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to supply food to the people.

They did this ostensibly to alleviate a shortage of food.

Onsong County, North Hamgyong Province
Onsong County, North Hamgyong Province. / Image: Daily NK

The pair reportedly sent the smuggled rice to state-run food shops without going through the mandatory quarantine and disinfecting period. They also secretly imported goods private smugglers had piled up in China prior to the border closure in 2020, ignoring the quarantine and disinfection process and pocketing the merchandise.

The court said the government had declared an emergency quarantine law, closed the border to protect people from COVID-19, and was keeping a firm hand on the nation every day. Despite this, the cadres had displayed laziness “to the end,” with the court criticizing their “anti-party, anti-people behavior.”

Local residents say people believe the situation erupted because officials from several trading companies overlooked what the cadres were doing to get their share of the action, but the cadres were taking the entire rap.

Meanwhile, the trial also passed judgment on locals who used foreign-made mobile phones or watched or distributed South Korean videos.

The source said the people caught with foreign mobile phones were sentenced to 11 years in prison for calling South Korea or China to receive money. Those who watched or distributed South Korean videos received a range of punishments, from just six months of forced labor to five years in prison.

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North Korea sentences two cadres to life sentences for smuggling rice from China