This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.
Citizens in North Korea are angry that authorities have not punished a local official for the death of his elderly mother after he kicked her out of his house and made her live on the street, sources inside the country told RFA.
According to sources, the official is in charge of the welfare department of a government-owned pharmaceutical factory in the South Pyongan province city of Sunchon, north of the capital Pyongyang. The department distributes food to factory workers.
The story of the woman’s death has spread rapidly following North Korea’s observance of Mother’s Day last week.
“In October, a citizen who was walking through an alley of restaurants in downtown Sunchon found the body of a woman in her 60s on the side of the road and reported it to the police,” a resident of South Pyongan province, told RFA’s Korean Service Sunday.
The source said that police were able to identify the woman as the mother of a Korean Workers’ Party official at the Sunchon Pharmaceutical Factory.
“The old mother used to live in Ryonpo-dong, in the city of Sunchon, not far from her party official son. She ran her business in the local marketplace to support herself, but a month before her death she moved in with her son, saying her house was taken by a debtor and she had nowhere else to go,” said the source, who requested anonymity for security reasons.
“But eventually the party official kicked his mom out of the house, so she died of cold and hunger while living on the streets of Sunchon,” the source said.
After the woman’s corpse was found, news of her death spread rapidly among the city’s residents, who now grow increasingly angry that such disrespect for the elderly is going unpunished, according to the source.
“The party official knew that his homeless old mother was begging on the streets, but he turned a blind eye to the fact and allowed her to die in misery,” the source said.
“Even though it has been a whole month since the party official abused his own mother to death, the authorities have done nothing to punish the official, and the people are angry.”
Another resident of South Pyongan told RFA that before the old woman was cast out by her son, she had lost her house because it was sold out from under her by her daughter.
“She was living alone without worry until the spring of this year. In May, her daughter, who got married and moved to another region, came to her house saying it was difficult to live there due to the impact of the coronavirus. She had gone into debt while trying to do business where she was living,” the second source said.
“She had been staying there for a month, but one day when her mother was out working in the local market, she sold her mother’s house to a broker and disappeared with the cash she received,” said the second source.
Having lost her house, the old woman went to her son for help, asking him to let her live at his house for a while.
“The party official and his wife, a teacher at Sunchon high school, kicked his mother out of the house. They blamed her for foolishly allowing his sister to stay at the house and said she should go to the sister who sold the house to resolve the issue,” said the second source.
“She sacrificed to raise her son to become a party official, but her own son and daughter-in-law drove out his elderly mother and left her to die on the streets. People are strongly criticizing the official,” the second source said.
The second source said that residents are even angrier at the authorities for restrictions on trade and business imposed to fight the coronavirus.
“Authorities are ignoring the livelihood of the people who have lost their way of making a living on the pretext of preventing the spread of coronavirus.”
RFA reported that North Korea celebrated its version of Mother’s Day on Nov. 16 by giving extra food and money to women with three or more children in an effort to increase the country’s birth rate. Critics said that without improving the impoverished country’s economic situation, asking citizens to add to the population was irresponsible.
North Korea still claims it has not confirmed a single case of coronavirus, but the CDC has classified it at level four, the highest on its new COVID-19 level scale used as the basis for its travel health notices. Countries in level four have a COVID-19 incidence rate of over 100 people per 100,000 over the past 28 days.