Like some twisted, authoritarian version of Cinderella, North Korean officials are going door-to-door to compare handwriting samples to anti-Government graffiti found on a public wall.
The New York Post reported that authorities are “forcing residents to undergo a handwriting test to prove their innocence,” according to a report from Radio Free Asia.
“The aggressive hunt was sparked after the slogan ‘Down with party officials, who live well by exploiting the people’ was scrawled on a fence around Unsan county marketplace, north of the capital Pyongyang,” the Post reported.
The graffiti appeared in mid-September, RFA reported. A resident of South Pyongan, the province north of the nation’s capital Pyongyang, told RFA that the “local security department is in an uproar” over the graffiti.
October 10 is the 75th anniversary of the Korean Workers’ Party founding, which has led to the increased uproar over the anti-government graffiti. Due to the close proximity of the anniversary, the source told RFA, “security officials concluded that the graffiti is an attempt to overthrow party officials and is an anti-government act that directly criticizes the party’s central leadership, including the Highest Dignity. So, they began an investigation.”
“Highest Dignity” is an honorific term that refers to North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un, RFA reported.
“Under the orders of the security department, the leaders of the local neighborhood watch units visited each household, making both adults and children to write with pens on paper to be submitted to the security department,” the source told the outlet.
“They are closely comparing the graffiti and the handwriting examples, but they have yet to catch the criminal. So, they are starting a second handwriting investigation. The first time they made everyone write with their right hand, but this time, all the residents must write with their left,” the source added.
Another source told RFA that it is not just those living in South Pyongan province who are suspected of writing the graffiti. Anyone who was in the area from outside the province around the time it was written has also been interrogated.
“Last week I received a quarantine permit and went to my relative’s house in Unsan, South Pyongan province,” said the second source, who is from North Pyongan province.
“While I was going about my business, a local security agent called me in for questioning. The security agent asked me about when I came from North Pyongan province and made me write on a piece of paper with my right hand and left hand. After confirming that my handwriting is different from the graffiti, he let me go,” the second source added.
The source told RFA that the government’s search for the writer has made him or her a folk hero.
“Local residents are expressing their great satisfaction with the graffiti that says, ‘Down with party officials,’ because the authorities and powerful people, including party officials, are well off, but normal residents suffer each year from different hardships,” the source said.
“I know in North Pyongan province, it’s the same story. Apartments where the provincial party members live are always supplied with electricity, while the neighborhoods where ordinary residents live are not. So, at night you don’t really see any lights,” the source added.
Officials also enjoy other privileges, the source said, such as meat and rice at every meal instead of just corn and other staples.
“They just live it up while the ordinary residents work hard to make a living, and the resentment of the people builds up to the point that the people start to hate the officials and the country’s leadership,” the source said.