March 04, 2011 09:00
The North Korean regime in January launched a new surveillance bureau charged with snooping on its people, Radio Free Asia reported Thursday.
Quoting a source in the city of Hyesan, Ryanggang Province RFA said the bureau, named 118 Sangmu, combines forces from the State Security Department, the Ministry of Public Security, prosecutors' offices and party organs, in accordance with leader Kim Jong-il's instructions "to eradicate antisocialist elements." Senior officials involved are baffled because the new bureau's tasks overlap with those of an already existing bureau, 109 Sangmu, it claimed.
Since its launch in 2005, 109 Sangmu cracked down on drugs and DVDs of South Korean soap operas. Over recent years, surveillance bodies have mushroomed, including Bureau 27, an agency which monitors mobile phone use under the State Security Department; 111 Sangmu, which cracks down on child beggars; patrol units of the Ministry of Public Security; mobile strike forces; border guard posts under the Civil Defense Department; and worker inspectors.
The proliferation is already causing problems. On Feb. 24, a pitched battle broke out near the border in North Hamgyong Province between border guards and a security patrol over how to handle three smugglers, a man and two women, who were arrested by the patrol after border guards pursued them, RFA quoted another source in the province as saying. "It nearly led to a shoot-out between the two groups," the source added.
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