Corruption is rife in the North Korean army as sanctions eat into official perks for soldiers, a think tank report claims. North Korean officers have smuggled out sensitive files for money and border guards can be bribed to carry would-be defectors on their back, it says.
Koh Jae-hong of the Institute for National Security Strategy released the report on Thursday.
Top-secret data such as orders of the supreme command, wartime plans, and guidelines for electronic warfare "are sold for between tens and hundreds of millions of won" to information traders in the Chinese border region, Koh said.
Border guards sometimes stand watch for people who cross into China illegally, a service that costs 1,000 yuan or US$40, and help feeble old people cross the river by carrying them on their back for $60, he added.
"In Hoeryong, North Hamgyong Province, a senior security official took a bribe to erase CCTV footage of someone fleeing the North," he said.
The money is kicked up from soldiers to higher-ranking officers in return for easier shifts or furloughs. Soldiers have to pay 200,000 North Korean won if they want to be assigned or transferred to a unit in the border area where they can make money, and 300,000 won if they want to be assigned to Guard Command in Pyongyang, Koh added.
"This amount is the equivalent of between seven and 10 years' worth of salary, since an Army captain’s pay is about 3,000 won a month."
Soldiers have to bribe their superiors with 100 kg of corn if they want to go on a 15-day regular leave. Soldiers from rich families go on leave for up to a year by bribing their superiors $1,000 to $2,000.