North Korean authorities exploit homeless children
The North Korean authorities are now extorting homeless children for money, according to sources inside the country. These children, known as "kkotjebi" in North Korea, live in squalid conditions and do not receive support or protection from the authorities.
“The number of kkotjebi* in Hamhung City and the surrounding villages has increased. These children are forming gangs and resorting to theft. There has been no special response to this [from the authorities]. In fact, Ministry of Public Security (MPS) officials (the police) are explicitly demanding that the children give them a portion of the money they steal," a source in South Hamgyong Province told Daily NK in November.
“The problem of pickpockets at the marketplace is severe, and you have to see the MPS as playing a role in that. They look the other way in exchange for some of the take, so residents are unable to trust each other."
“People see the MPS agents taking money from the kkotjebi and call them awful brutes, but the agents are unfazed,” she added.
The North Korean authorities tout welfare facilities such as orphanages and boarding schools, but the problem of kkotjebi has persisted. Some donju (members of North Korea’s new elite entrepreneur class) have tried to win favor from the Kim Jong Un regime for big projects by building some facilities for these children. These centers, however, are lackluster and the kkotjebi tend to avoid them.
“It’s quite easy to see lines of young and sick kkotjebi outside restaurants, waiting to drink the watery remains of customers’ leftovers. Many residents regard these almost-skeletal children with sympathy,” a source in North Hamgyong Province said, adding that lacking good places to sleep, many gather outside apartment complexes.
According to Daily NK's sources, the North Korean authorities are taking a passive approach to these types of social problems. Owing to a lack of interest and assistance from the authorities, North Korea’s lower class has failed to benefit from marketization, and their lives have deteriorated as a result.......