Rice Thieves Being Shot in NK

Rice, the staple food in NK, is in desperately short supply

The Proclamation of Penalties for Stealing Rice quoted below first appeared in the 2010 North Korean Human Rights White Paper, following its appearance that year in official Korean documents. Previously, the punishment for stealing grain had only been known from scattered defector testimony. Verification in the form of a proclamation from the North Korean security apparatus is a significant new development.

Thus, the proclamation still remains in effect. The current food crisis is again approaching the levels when the proclamation was first issued. The food situation for the political leadership in the capital Pyongyang has, in fact, grown worse that it was in 1997. Because rice distribution has been restricted or suspended since last year, the proclamation is significant to the North’s public safety authorities and the Korean security apparatus, from the perspective of maintaining social order.The proclamation originated in 1997, when the food shortage in North Korea was especially severe. Such widespread famine caused both crime and starvation to rise, and it led to drastic increases in border crossings by defectors. Thus, the document also contributes to an understanding of the historical context.

(Comments by Kato Hiroshi, Executive Director of LFNKR)


Proclamation from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,
Department of Public Safety

August 5, 1997


Anyone who steals, sells, or wastes grain will be severely punished

Because grain is a primary means of living for the people, it is an extremely important strategic resource. This year, at the wise direction of our nation’s party, the military and the people have been totally mobilized in the battle to overcome food shortages. The prospect of victory has grown in this “Arduous March”. Nevertheless, a part of our citizenry is caught up in extreme individual self-interest, thinking only of their own survival, and they are stealing precious grain gained from the blood and sweat of the people, as they waste our grain and dare to engage in commercial activity.

This is a criminal act against our nation that violates one of our country’s resources. This must be strictly punished as a traitorous act of aiding an enemy who is trying to isolate and crush our brand of socialism.

According to the responsibilities entrusted to the public safety department by the government of the republic, in order to thoroughly eradicate gain through stealing, and the actions of selling and wasting, this proclamation is as follows.

1. Stealing grain is absolutely prohibited!

Anyone who steals grain from fields, accumulation areas, threshing places, or storehouses will be punished severely by law and must make compensation for the entire amount. In especially severe cases, individuals will be shot to death. Anyone who causes the loss of grain by irresponsibly carrying out their duties, or failing to execute defense and policing duties related to fields, accumulation areas, threshing places, and storehouses will also be punished by law. Security guards who steal, or any accomplice to a security guard who steals will be punished especially severely. Anyone who suffers damages while stealing grain cannot appeal in court.

2. Taking grain and engaging in commerce is absolutely prohibited!

Anyone who takes large quantities of grain and engages in commerce with the aim of unjustly amassing wealth will be severely punished up to and including being shot to death.

Anyone who steals grain from state managed or communal farms and barters or sells it on the black market will be punished by law. All grain and money involved in the transaction will be confiscated.

Anyone who engages in usurious loans using grain, will be punished severely by law. All grain, goods, and money exchanged in the usurious loan will be forfeited.

3. Hoarding, plundering, and wasting grain is absolutely prohibited!

Anyone who takes grain from the production process, and anyone who devises various illegal activities as nominal “businesses,” “aid,” “guest reception,” etc.; anyone who abuses their position for embezzlement; or anyone who conspires and colludes for greed and personal gain will be severely punished up to and including being shot to death. All grain that has been taken will be forfeited, and in addition reparations will be demanded.

Communal farms, manufacturing groups, branch units, farmers, agencies, social community groups and citizens who exchange grain for livestock, equipment, oil, machinery, pesticides, manure, etc., will be severely punished by law. All grain and goods taken will be forfeited. Any agreement in which grain is taken in the fall will be completely invalid.

Anyone responsible for the deterioration, decay, or loss of grain, who irresponsibly carries out the safekeeping and management of the fall harvest and threshing, will also be punished by law.

4. All citizens should demonstrate their spirit of supreme patriotism by exercising vigilance and promptly reporting those who steal, sell, hoard, or waste grain.

5. Anyone who violates this proclamation, regardless of rank, merit, or connections, is subject to current law and will be punished accordingly.