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Chongjin renews crackdown on rampant “superstitious behavior”

With superstitious behavior such as fortune-telling running rampant, authorities in Chongjin recently launched a campaign to eliminate superstitious practices, Daily NK has learned.

Speaking on condition of anonymity for security reasons, a Daily NK source in North Hamgyong Province said Monday that more and more people in Chongjin and Hoeryong are finding solace in fortune-telling.

Superstition is nothing new among North Koreans, but many people are relying on it these days, the source said. People even go to fortune-tellers after having bad dreams, perhaps because life is so hard, he added.

One worried Chongjin resident went to a famous fortune-teller in her neighborhood after a dead person kept appearing in her dreams for several days. However, there were so many people at the fortune-teller’s house that a line had been forming since early morning. After waiting a while and paying USD 20, she was able to get her fortune told.

“Since it’s so hard to make money now, many people visit fortune-tellers to ask about every little thing, including travelers who ask if they can go on the road and merchants who ask if the police will bother them or if they will have a lot of bad luck,” the source said.

“Everyone knows that fortune-tellers don’t always give the right answers and that you can be punished if you are caught visiting one, but the situation seems bad enough for them that they pin their hopes on getting their fortunes told.”

Heavy punishments for superstitious acts

Article 256 of the North Korean penal code prescribes punishments for superstitious behavior. People who perform superstitious acts after receiving money or goods face up to one year of short-term labor, while those who cause serious consequences through superstitious acts face up to three years of re-education through labor. In serious cases, offenders face three to seven years of re-education through labor.

North Korean authorities consider superstitious behavior a serious crime punishable by reeducation through labor. But people struggling with economic hardships are seeking out fortune-tellers – regardless of the risk – and relying on what those fortune-tellers have to say, the source said.

In Chongjin on Feb. 10, neighborhood watch units in each district of the city held meetings to declare a “clean-up operation” to weed out superstition.

However, some people were not happy with the focus of the meetings.

“Some people complained that while the meetings told them to believe only in the leader and the motherland, everyone knew that if they did, they would sit around and starve to death. But since all the government’s doing is stepping up the crackdown and controls, there’s nothing they feel scared about now,” the source said.

“No matter how much they intensify crackdowns and punishments for superstitious acts, if people continue to feel threatened in their livelihoods, superstition won’t end. People say the state should first ask itself why the public depends on superstition before cracking down on it.”

Translated by David Black. Edited by Robert Lauler.

Daily NK works with a network of sources living in North Korea, China, and elsewhere. Their identities remain anonymous for security reasons. For more information about Daily NK’s network of reporting partners and information-gathering activities, please visit our FAQ page here.

Please send any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

Read in Korean

February 21, 2024 at 08:00AM

by DailyNK(North Korean Media)

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