A recently discharged North Korean soldier was sentenced to eight years in prison after brutally beating a police officer who responded to an altercation between himself and a local merchant, RFA sources say.
The ex-soldier, who had finished a 10-year military career, reportedly lost control due to his rebellious feelings towards authorities after returning home to find his family in bad living conditions.
“In mid-September, a police officer was on patrol in Sukchon County, South Pyongan and was attacked by a young man. The officer was beaten so badly that he had to be hospitalized,” a source in South Pyongan Province said on October 21.
“The attacker was a discharged soldier in his 20s who returned home last spring,” the source said.
“The man’s parents are members of the [Korean Workers’ Party] and they devoted their lives to working at a state-run farm. But they were destitute because they didn’t always receive their pay, and they were not allowed to sell anything in the market,” added the source.
“When the soldier returned home, he was incensed that farmers were struggling, but government officials had no trouble making ends meet. This shocking reality manifested itself by causing him to have rebellious thoughts,” he said.
“Angered [by his family’s living conditions], he went out into the street and snatched a smartphone from a merchant. The police officer then tried to gain control of the situation but the man lost control and hurt him badly,” the source said.
“This attack isn’t considered a mere assault. [Because the police officer was the victim,] it is considered a serious crime against the state. The soldier was immediately arrested, sentenced to eight years and transferred to Kaechon correctional facility,” the source said.
The Washington-based Committee for Human Rights in North Korea in a 2012 report identified this facility as a concentration camp with extremely harsh conditions.
“Usually those guilty of assault spend only six months in disciplinary labor centers or 12 months in educational labor institutions, but this ex-soldier got a much heavier punishment,” the source said.
Another South Pyongan-based source said, “The former soldier was livid that his parents were made to work so hard at the farm to support the party, but they themselves could barely eat three meals a day and had such a hard life.”
“Now the guy’s parents are also resentful because they can’t even buy frying powder for him to eat in the camp to avoid malnutrition,” he added.
Frying powder, rice and corn flour are often sent to prisoners from their families to be used as makeshift emergency rations inside the camps.
“People who hear this story can’t believe he got eight years! They say that’s too harsh for what is essentially a simple assault,” the second source said, adding, “They blame the regime for being overly harsh—that a simple violent outburst has suddenly ruined the life of this smart and kind young man.”
Reported by Hyemin Son for RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Leejin Jun. Written in English by Eugene Whong.