Barely News: North Korea's 'Criticism Sessions' and Reported Punishment of Those Not Sufficiently Mourning Kim's Death

January 15th, 2012 9:52 AM

Yet another episode being reported from the totalitarian nightmare that is North Korea is getting short shrift in most of the world's press, namely "criticism sessions" (i.e., rat out your neighbor, coworker, etc.) identifying North Koreans who allegedly weren't sufficiently grief-stricken over the December death of Kim Jong Il (pictured at right), weren't sufficiently demonstrative about it, or didn't attend enough mourning events, as well as the punishments for such transgressions which have reportedly followed.

The source is the Daily NK, a South Korea-based web site described by AFP as "an Internet website run by opponents of North Korea." The opening paragraphs from Wednesday's Daily NK report read as follows (bolds are mine throughout this post):

Harsh Punishments for Poor Mourning

The North Korean authorities have completed the criticism sessions which began after the mourning period for Kim Jong Il and begun to punish those who transgressed during the highly orchestrated mourning events.

Daily NK learned from a source from North Hamkyung Province on January 10th, "The authorities are handing down at least six months in a labor-training camp to anybody who didn’t participate in the organized gatherings during the mourning period, or who did participate but didn’t cry and didn't seem genuine."

Furthermore, the source added that people who are accused of circulating rumors criticizing the country’s 3rd generation dynastic system are also being sent to re-education camps or being banished with their families to remote rural areas.

Daily NK earlier reported news that criticism sessions were being held at all levels of industry, in enterprises and by local people’s units starting on December 29th, the last day of the mourning period. A source said at the time that the central authorities had ordered the sessions to be completed by January 8th.

The North Hamkyung source commented of the sessions that they "created a vicious atmosphere of fear, causing people to accuse ‘that young upstart’ (Kim Jong Eun) of preying on the people now that he has taken power."

In May 2011, Amnesty International referenced satellite imagery and testimony while estimating that the labor camps hold 200,000 people.

The AFP report carrying North Korea's bitter denial ("denouncing those who spread the allegations as 'pitiable human scum'") fails to mention the "criticism sessions" which enhance the Daily NK story's credibility, especially since the Daily NK reported the existence of those sessions nine days earlier, before it knew the specifics of what might result from them:

Mourning Criticism Sessions til 8th

An inside source has reported that the expected criticism sessions have gotten underway to deal with those people who transgressed in the eyes of the authorities during the mourning period for Kim Jong Il.

The source from Yangkang Province told Daily NK yesterday, “From the 29th, enterprises at every level and people’s units started criticism sessions. Those who were not in attendance at commemorative events were branded ‘traitors’; those who were not sufficiently sincere during mourning events became ‘reactionaries’.”

The source added that this is generating fear in the people, explaining, “When the North Korean authorities say that the people were insincere it basically means a declaration of war on those who did things like not crying or only attended once, so people are feeling very uneasy.”

“There is an order from the Party to finish the criticism by January 8th, so there are ongoing investigations and discussions involving criticism every day," he added, before noting, “Those people who brought white flowers from their homes to the statue instead of newly made ones are also targets for punishment.”

Searches at the related sites and reviews of certain stories which might have cryptically referenced the "criticism sessions" and punishments indicate that there hasn't been anything about either in stories about "North Korea" at the Associated Press or the New York Times. relayed the substance of the Daily NK report on Wednesday. The Washington Post carried a three-paragraph blog post by Elizabeth Flock, who dropped the "at least" from the Daily NK's "at least six months" description of the labor camp sentences.'s four-paragraph report did the same thing.

It's reasonable to believe that the AP's non-coverage in particular comes from the kind of mindset that would, as occurred in a December 30 report by the wire service's Jean H. Lee, marvel at the omnipresence of images of Kim Jong Il and fawning over his memory in a manner that might even embarrass North Korea's propaganda minister. Thus, these reports of "criticism sessions" and punishments couldn't possibly be true -- and besides, they get in the way of stories about how Kim's body is to be enshrined, special North Korean pardons for convicts, a detailed timeline of Kim Jong Un's rise to "great leader," and, of course, its openness to a "food-nuke deal" which would only involve "suspending uranium enrichment."

Cross-posted at