Kim Jong-un sends North Koreans to gulag for using his newspaper for cigarettes

Kim Jong-un is reportedly sending North Koreans to the gulag for using newspaper clippings as rolling paper for cigarettes.

The Rodong Sinmun is a daily propaganda paper that regularly features snaps of the dictator and pro-Party messaging.

However residents of the secretive nation have reportedly been using the rag's pages as makeshift coating for their tobacco, to wrap up food such as bread and sweets, and even as wallpaper.

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Now Kim Jong-un's regime is understood to be sending people selling the paper to labour camps, claiming the "highest dignity" of the publication is being disrespected.

Director of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea Greg Scarlatoiu said: "Cigarette rolling paper is very scarce in North Korea, so people often use newspaper scraps to roll up their cigarettes.

"Over the years, there have been credible reports of people who were sent to a camp because they rolled up their tobacco in newspaper scraps containing pictures of the Kims."

Scarlatoiu added "very credible sources" had confirmed selling copies of the paper was also an offence in North Korea and could land vendors in hot water.

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Meanwhile a source in South Pyongan Province told Radio Free Asia (RFA) two women had been arrested on Saturday (August 12) after they were caught selling the publication for unofficial uses.

"Two traders who secretly sold Rodong Sinmun to a rice cake vendor and a tobacco vendor in the marketplace were cracked down by a police officer in plain clothes," the insider said.

"I was told that the authorities would treat residents imprisoned in the detention centre for selling the party’s newspaper as anti-socialist.

"They would be imprisoned in a labour camp for one to two years," they continued, adding the "intensive" new policy had been introduced as the paper features "the highest dignity activities and party policies."

They added a kilo of shredded newspaper in the provincial capital of Pyongseong could be sold for about 5,000 won – while the average monthly salary nationwide is between 5,000 and 10,000 won, according to a 2022 NK News article.

Another source in North Hwanghae Province in the south of the country told the radio station North Korean authorities had raided paper stalls in Sariwon market, looking for the Rodong Sinmun.

They said old copies of the paper are meant to be gathered up monthly and sent back to the print works to be reused.

However they added some were intercepted and sold back to civilians unofficially.

Scarlatoiu said access to the Rodong Sinmun is considered a "privilege" in North Korea and those who get their hands on it are supposed to read it to others at their workplaces or at weekly indoctrination sessions.

In the nation's capital, Pyongyang, pages of the publication are framed in display cases on metro platforms for commuters to read on their journeys.

Copies are thought to be valued so highly that politicians can reportedly even be punished if they don't protect them.

Scarlatoiu added: "Perhaps cash-strapped officials saw that copies of the Rodong Sinmun had been gathering dust in storage for years, if not for decades.

"And they came up with the idea to make a quick buck by selling them to rice, candy, and tobacco vendors to be used as wrapping paper or cigarette rolling paper, while clearing storage space.

"How serious an offence is this in North Korea? Very serious.

"This is the kind of offence that could land local officials in serious trouble, including demotion, expulsion from the party, or even imprisonment in a camp."

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