Knife fights, market forces changing North Korea 'self-criticism' sessions

By Elizabeth Shim   |   March 16, 2018 at 12:50 PM
North Koreans are increasingly skipping "self-criticism" sessions because of the rise of markets in the country. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI

March 16 (UPI) -- North Korean society is changing, and incidents like knife fights and the growing influence of markets are taking a toll on the way local communities in the country conduct "self-criticism" sessions, according to sources in the country.

The sessions, conducted by organizations like local youth alliances, are mandatory for North Koreans from the age of 8, South Korean news service Daily NK reported Friday.

The sessions not only require participants to admit to wrongdoings but often raise tensions among group members when they are required to criticize each other's conduct based on the teaching of the ruling Kim family, a source in North Korea's North Hamgyong Province told Daily NK.

The criticisms have at times turned into personal attacks, fanned the flames of distrust and culminated in knife fights among ordinary North Koreans, the source said.

Increasing marketization at the local level is also responsible for lower attendance rates at self-criticism sessions.

"As the markets develop, the number of people who do not want to participate in self-criticism sessions has increased," the source said, adding the sessions are moving away from criticism to praise.

Another source said North Korean laborers sent to Russia to earn money for the regime are not required to take part in the sessions.

North Korea is struggling economically, partly owing to sanctions, and lack of adequate infrastructure is creating problems for people in North Hamgyong Province, Radio Free Asia reported Thursday.

People in the city of Chongjin have been carrying water by buckets because the city's water supply has been completely cut off, according to the report.

RFA's source said water pipes that were completely frozen during the winter have not been restored, and Chongjin residents have been going "for months" without tap water and coping by carrying buckets of water from streams located miles away from the city.

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