North Korea released this photo of disease control officials in protective gear on May 13. (Rodong Sinmun)

North Korea is conducting low-key surveys of citizen records during nationwide health checks aimed at combating the COVID-19 pandemic. Basically, authorities have started using health checks as a cover to determine how many people have left their registered places of residence, as well as their identities.

A source in North Korea told Daily NK on Wednesday that authorities are comparing the identity cards of those who have participated in ongoing nationwide health checks since late May with their real faces, and reconfirming their residential addresses.

With some people who did not participate in state and police-led health checks determining that even their families or loved ones did not appear to know their whereabouts, the Department of Social Security quietly ordered its local agencies to across the country to use health examinations. to determine who has left their registered place of residence.

The order called on police officials to complete the work of reconfirming public records by early August.

In short, as more people starve or disappear as food shortages and economic hardship worsen due to the prolonged border closure, the Department of Social Security is reconfirming citizens’ registrations. behind the facade of disease control activities. .

According to the source, local branches of the Ministry of Social Security are carrying out investigations to determine who ran away from their legal residence using a list received from emergency anti-epidemic orders. The list contains the names of people who did not participate in state medical examinations.

Branches also investigate people wandering their jurisdictions or secretly living in other people’s homes without properly recording their whereabouts.

This follows an order from the Department of Social Security to check all such offenders, including those who are temporarily living in other people’s homes after illegally selling their own home.

As a result, people who are determined by authorities to have “no domicile in their own name” will be required to report their whereabouts once a month to local police officials or heads of neighborhood watch units.. Those who fail to provide regular reports face fines and other penalties.

“The Ministry of Social Security has also ordered that people who are confirmed to be leaving their official place of residence and who have relatives who have illegally left the country, disappeared or defected to South Korea will be temporarily classified as “a person who may disappear” or “a person who may leave the country illegally,” the source said. In short, the authorities plan to carefully monitor these people as “dangerous elements” since they could try to defect.

The source, however, pointed out that with more and more people worrying about where their next meal will come from, there is no way for the state to manage and control all those who – unable to endure hunger – run away from their registered place of residence just survive.

“The Ministry of Social Security also said it would impose severe partisan, administrative or judicial sanctions on public registration services or officials who register people as dead without verifying a body, not only during the [current] COVID-19 lockdown, but also in the future,” the source added.

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