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Official guidebook offers glimpse of N.K. society

A North Korean government text disclosed by a South Korean protestant missionary group named Caleb Mission earlier this week offered a glimpse of the reclusive state’s unique adaptation of the market economy.

North Korea, was also seeing attempts to dodge military duty, widespread bribery and patients opting for euthanasia.

The classified guidebook for law enforcement authorities published by the North’s police agency in June 2009 lists 721 actual cases related to criminal law, civil law and the code of criminal procedure and offers advice on how to punish offenders.
Two North Korean soldiers film with a video camera near the Military Armistice Commission conference room in the Joint Security Area in the truce village of Panmjunjeom on Tuesday as Swedish Defense Minister Sten Tolgfors has an interview with reporters after touring the room. (Yonhap News)
Two North Korean soldiers film with a video camera near the Military Armistice Commission conference room in the Joint Security Area in the truce village of Panmjunjeom on Tuesday as Swedish Defense Minister Sten Tolgfors has an interview with reporters after touring the room. (Yonhap News)

One of the cases in the 791-page reference book is about a hog-raiser who sold pork injected with growth hormones and made a lot of money by selling more meat.

In this case, the North Korean law enforcement authorities cannot do anything about the hog-raiser because the man made money by selling pork at a legally permitted price in the market through his own efforts, explains the guidebook.

Market transactions are restricted by setting a legally permitted price range for each commodity in the planned economy, but the case shows that the basic idea of market economy has already been embedded in North Korean society.

The book also explains that the act of getting paid for transporting another person’s luggage from the train station using a bicycle cannot be seen as a crime because the law does not stipulate that selling an individual’s efforts is a crime.

A food salesperson can be punished for “violating the order of product sales,” however, if he sprayed water on his seaweed to make it look fresher.

Much of the guidebook is about crimes where individuals caused damage to the state by stealing from the government or neglecting their duties, an indication of the seriousness of economic difficulties many North Koreans are going through.

Attempts to evade mandatory military service and euthanasia have become social headaches in the North as well.

A doctor who took $800 from five people in exchange for forging their medical records was charged with bribery and violating the law on military duty.

If a person avoided conscription by lying about his eyesight and later was found to have normal eyesight, he could be questioned by the authorities on charges of violating the law on military service.

The guidebook also stresses that euthanasia is illegal, mentioning a case where a son drugged his father to death to relieve him of the pain from illness under the consent of his mother.

Both the mother and the son should be seen as accomplices in a murder because “although they did not have a foul motive in killing him, the victim did not ask for it,” the book reads.

Bribery and treats in exchange for influence-peddling was also prevalent in North Korea.

People accused of trading South Korean or American films were punished for illegally bringing in and distributing “decadent culture” under North Korean criminal law.

By Kim So-hyun (sophie@heraldcorp.com)
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