Winning: Road Warriors

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May 18, 2021: North Korea is increasing security around military bases and factories that produce weapons. Part of this program consists of casually driving past these facilities or the special (guarded) roads around them and noting any suspicious behavior. This new scrutiny includes some of the roads that are only used when leader Kim Jong Un comes to visit. Some of these special roads are being transferred to the MSS (Ministry of State Security, or secret police) from the Ministry of Social Security which maintains these special roads and provides guards to make sure that only authorized personnel use the roads. This transfer applies to some roads only used by Kim Jong Un when he comes to visit. The secret police will now supervise road maintenance as well as security.

The problems were discovered when a MSS commander happened to be driving past one of the “Kim only” roads and found busses and vans operated by donju (legal entrepreneurs) using the Kim only road. Further investigation revealed these donju owned and operated servi-cha transports charging higher fees to users who have to get to places not regularly served by the cheaper, but increasingly scarce public transit. The MSS official ordered discreet surveillance of the many restricted roads, especially the ones used only by Kim Jong Un. These roads often went to facilities also serviced by public roads but the private ones were better maintained and rarely obstructed by flood damage, landslides or fallen trees. Servi-cha operators got more business because users knew that the drivers were able to bribe their way past the guards. In the wake of the resent investigation many guards were transferred or fired, which was a major loss for them because such steady, well-paying jobs were hard to get.

The MSS was particularly alarmed at the illegal access to Kim-only roads and other roads that led to military and high-security factories and mines. In North Korea it was a career-enhancing move to be paranoid about such things because it made possible attacks on Kim Jong Un or simply observation, or worse, for secret facilities. Although praise and open expressions of Kim Jong Un are mandatory, the MSS knows from their nationwide network of local informers and interrogation of civilians arrested for “disrespect”, like scrawly anti-Kim graffiti on walls, that anger towards Kim and the government is growing. The paranoia involved with protecting Kim Jong Un and the memorials to his predecessors (father and grandfather) that have ruled North Korea since 1945 is under attack. Kim Jong Un, like his predecessors, travels by a private train or via heavily guarded road convoys. His many estates (luxurious compounds) around the country are used when he visits local towns or military facilities on inspection and photo-op visits. Security for all these movements has also been increased, often on orders from Kim himself.

In North Korea paranoia, especially by the leaders and the MSS is not is not considered a disorder, but a realistic response to growing public anger at how the living-standards have declined and more videos of South Korean TV shows and movies, including newscasts, are smuggled into a country where many North Koreans will pay to get such forbidden materials and risk arrest and punishment if caught. Even the children of senior officials have been caught with this forbidden media. Some of them, and their families, have been punished as a warning to others. That has not reduced the number of people eager to view the much better life in South Korea and use nearby private roads.

 


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