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N. Korean veterans turn to debt collection to make ends meet

Disabled veterans in Pukchang County, South Pyongan Province, have recently come under fire for working as debt collectors for moneylenders, Daily NK has learned.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a Daily NK source in South Pyongan Province said Monday that a “disabled veteran in Pukchang County barged into a family’s home late last month, smashing their household appliances and threatening the homeowner.” He said the veteran “had been hired by a moneylender in downtown Pukchang County to collect a debt.”

Local police were called to the scene, but did little except cover up the incident because the assailant was a “special disabled veteran,” a class of wounded ex-soldiers who receive preferential treatment from the state because of their severe injuries.

“Wounded soldiers used to transport goods banned by the state or do business with their family and friends to earn money, but since this has become impossible due to COVID-19, they’ve been working as debt collectors for moneylenders,” the source said.

Many people blame government for failing to take care of veterans

This phenomenon has increased significantly as the moneylenders and disabled veterans have common interests.

Moneylenders can pay disabled veterans to collect their debts, knowing that even if the veterans cause a scene, the police will go easy on them. Meanwhile, disabled veterans actively sign up for the job because they can make money without the need for capital.

“Suffering worse hardships since COVID-19 and sensing the limits of their dependence on government rations, disabled veterans have started looking for new ways to earn money,” the source said. “Usually, they extract money [from debtors] by destroying household appliances and threatening people.”

Article 329 of North Korea’s penal code says that “a person who intentionally destroys a person’s property shall be punished by short-term labor for less than two years. In cases where personal property is destroyed repeatedly, in collusion, or in large quantities, the punishment shall be reform through labor for less than four years. In cases where the person commits a serious offense, the punishment shall be reform through labor for more than four years and less than nine years.”

People who destroy household goods, which are personal property, could face “reform through labor” – i.e., forced labor in a reeducation camp – depending on the severity of the destruction. However, disabled veterans are increasingly the subject of public opprobrium as their outrages grow worse, the source said, with the veterans taking advantage of society’s desire to appease them as recipients of government care.

However, some people also say that the phenomenon began because the state takes so little care of disabled veterans that they have to make money somehow, and they do not know who to blame.

“Some people say they don’t know whether to cut back on the supplies they get every time to help disabled veterans, or to sympathize with them because they realize the rations they get aren’t enough,” the source said. “Other people are frustrated that they can’t express their dissatisfaction with the government, which caused this situation in the first place.”

Daily NK works with a network of sources living in North Korea, China, and elsewhere. Their identities remain anonymous for security reasons.

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

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July 11, 2024 at 11:30AM

by DailyNK(North Korean Media)

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