A number of North Korean veterans in tough living situations have been committing violent and drug-related crimes, according to a Radio Free Asia (RFA) article published on Tuesday.
The trend has prompted the North Korean government to “severely condemn antisocial behavior among veterans,” according to the article.
“An ideological criticism meeting was held to address this trend of antisocialism in North Hamkyung Province’s veterans from August 20-22”, said a source in North Hamkyung Province.
Prompting this statement were the crimes of three workers at the Chungjin Honored Veterans Factory, one of whom was further identified by his surname “Song.”
The article added that Song was given a two-year sentence, while the two unnamed offenders were stripped of their honored veteran titles. Song had served in the “99th Navy Sniper Brigade” but was discharged after losing a foot in an accident.
After being placed at the Chungjin Honored Veterans Factory, he reportedly fell into heavy drug use with fellow workers and committed violent crimes in public areas.
Another source in Yanggang Province told RFA on Tuesday that a veterans meeting held on August 21 in Hyesan to announce that, “from now on, any veterans caught engaging in social crimes will be stripped of their titles.”
A separate meeting between Hyesan locals was convened to discuss the problem of caring for veterans in difficult living situations.
The Yanggang Province source said that 18-year-old Kim Su Kyeong, a freshman at Hyesan Teachers University, has been reaching out to local leaders and residents in support of veterans and their families who have fallen on tough times.
North Korean veterans have traditionally been privileged groups since the Kim Il Sung era, and an RFA report from last year suggested that the new Kim Jong Un regime may bring further practical improvements in veterans’ welfare.
Kim Seok-hyang, a professor of North Korean studies at Ewha Women’s University in Seoul says that there has been a strong tradition of veteran care in the DPRK.
“The North Korean government has cultivated a sense of respect for veterans on the local level”, she said “but there is absolutely nothing actually being done on the central state level—just talk.
Practical assistance all comes from local communities on a provincial or municipal level.” Analysts also say that incidents like these expose a less-known defect in the North Korean welfare system.
“The fact that the North Korean state is having difficulties caring for wounded veterans from the special forces, let alone those of regular military units, shows there are some definite shortcomings in the state welfare system, even for people believed to be among groups prioritized for support,” said NK News director of intelligence John G. Grisafi.
According to Dr. Kim, this is largely due to the fact that veteran welfare culture is slowly losing thrust, along with the fact that there is no state-sponsored veteran welfare system to pick up the slack.
Commenting on the recent reports, she said that veterans sometimes exploit their protected status to extort people and cause trouble in local communities.
“It’s not always the case that these are crimes of necessity, but it certainly has something to do with local legal authorities generally being more lenient when it comes to veterans,” she said.
But despite the recent cases, experts have observed that North Korea has a remarkably low level of violent crime.
Featured Image: Eric Lafforgue
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