As the North Korean authorities prepare for the 75th anniversary of Kim Jong Il’s birthday (February 16), the regime has discretely issued passport visas to residents that are able to earn foreign currency in China, in order to fund the expansion of a greenhouse full of Kimjongilia (a flower named after Kim Jong Il).
"In South Pyongan Province, the regime secretly recruited individuals who can earn money for the greenhouse expansion project, regardless of whether they have connections in China. Although the process of visa issuance is usually complicated, the regime has handed out visas to anyone who is likely to earn money,” a source close to North Korean affairs in China told Daily NK on February 7.
"The provincial governments have instructed the foreign affairs unit of the State Security Department (SSD) to distribute allotments of passport visas to each region. Those recruited are waiting for their departure to China, assigned only with the duty to 'secure funds,'" the source added.
Visa issuance in North Korea is subject to strict regulations for ordinary citizens. Applicants must have relatives in China and a document with a confirmation seal from Chinese immigration officials confirming that the relatives have extended an invitation. The law stipulates that ▲relatives should be closer than a first cousin once removed, ▲a visit cannot exceed either 40 days or two months and, ▲visa applications can only be submitted three years following the previous visit.
Normal applications are only open to those over 55 years of age who have a spouse and children. A confirmation process by the people’s unit, town office, state enterprise, the Party, the SSD, and the Ministry of People's Security is then needed to show that there is no problem in regards to ideology. In particular, it is important that the applicant has no relatives who are defectors or who were sent to correction camps. If all of these requirements are met, then bribes of more than 500 USD are demanded from the foreign affairs division.
However, this rigorous procedure has been thoroughly disregarded as the provincial governments dispatch individuals to China to earn money. The Workers' Party has issued instructions that each province should prepare the materials needed for the expansion of the Kimjongilia greenhouse.
"The Pyongsong Provincial Party has issued visas of two months duration to people who can make money in China, regardless of their family backgrounds, including whether there are defectors among their family. The Chairman of the Provincial Party submitted a paper to the authorities, promising that he will take responsibility if the dispatched individuals do not return," a source in South Pyongan Province said.
"Some of the people who secretly received visas are donju (newly-affluent middle class) who are taking it as an opportunity to travel abroad. Donju, who have been feeling uneasy despite their wealth, are welcoming this opportunity."
The greenhouse expansion project not only plans to develop the exterior, but also to refurbish the interior with various imported materials such as solar panels, glass and lighting. "The project is in the line with a policy to promote the [mythical] Paektu bloodline [used to legitimize the rule] of the Kim family," she added.