Authorities in North Korea are inspecting ruling Workers’ Party membership cards after a man used his to pay for alcohol, tarnishing the party’s reputation, sources in the country told H Talk Asia.
Membership in the Korean Workers’ Party was once considered prestigious as it brought many benefits to citizens, such as: B. preferential job placement and access to better education and housing. Being a member of the party requires exemplary action, such as superior military service.
But with the country’s economy in shambles, the government is no longer able to offer party members the same benefits.
RFA could only confirm that the inspections are taking place in the coastal city of Chongjin in the northeastern province of North Hamgyong.
“I found out [about the inspections] the next day,” a Chongjin resident told RFA’s Korean service on Wednesday, on condition of anonymity for security reasons. “It was because a male party member … bought some alcohol, left his party membership card and promised to pay the next day.”
According to the source, the man didn’t come back 15 days later, so the seller turned the card over to the local party committee and reported him. Shortly thereafter, local authorities began a citywide inspection, and Party members in every organization in Chongjin were required to show that their card was well maintained as a token of their continued respect for their membership.
“They examined the condition of the card, the case and pocket in which it was inserted and held, and the condition of the strap used to wear it on the body,” the source said.
All members are required to carry their cards, which are displayed in their case on the front left chest and secured with shoulder and waist straps. But most members only bring their cards to party meetings and other special occasions.
The source said the inspection is the first widespread review since the party rolled out the current version of the map in 2013.
“After the inspection, at the next meeting of party members, the local party secretary stressed that they should not tarnish their honor and take good care of their membership cards,” he said.
Anyone caught without a membership card in good standing is believed to be expelled from the party, the source said. RFA could not confirm party exclusions.
Members should have their card checked when paying their monthly party fee, which is 2% of their monthly income, to their cell leader. Members of one company were surprised that it was the local party secretary, who holds a much higher position than the cell head, who conducted the inspection, said a company employee who asked not to be named.
He said the secretary checked that the card was properly laminated and protected from moisture.
“But it seemed like he really just wanted to see if every member was carrying the card,” the second source said.
Members have now become indifferent to their status as party members, and few people aspire to join as they used to, he said.
“In the past, every man has campaigned to become a party member,” the source said. “But among the relatively young people in our company who aren’t members … there isn’t a single one trying to become one.”
Translated by Claire Shinyoung Oh Lee and Leejin J. Chung. Written in English by Eugene Whong.