Night Watch

North Korea: On 18 May, the Minister of People's Security, General Choe Pu-il, accompanied by officials of the Pyongyang city government and Party organizations, apologized in public for the collapse of a 23-story apartment building under construction. North Korean media published images of the officials apologizing to the families of the victims at the site of the collapse. The North's media reported the collapse occurred on 13 May and the cleanup ended on the 17th.

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that Choe Pu Il said the responsibility for the accident rests with him as he failed to uphold well the Workers' Party of Korea's policy of love for the people. He repented of himself, saying that he failed to find out factors that can put at risk the lives and properties of the people and to take thorough-going measures, thereby causing an unimaginable accident.

He made a firm pledge to make sure that the Ministry of People's Security becomes a genuine security organ which always protects the interests, lives and properties of the people, true to the party's noble intention of putting the popular masses above all.

A second General from the Ministry, who apologized, admitted that he was chiefly to blame because he was in charge of the construction.

Comment: North Korean media have not published the numbers of the dead and injured, but they must be significant to warrant a public apology. The only reason the North's leaders have ever apologized in public in this fashion - and they have on rare occasions - is to control damage so as to avert a worse crisis. Disgraced leaders apologize prior to punishment.

The event appears staged in that the family members stood at attention in their best attire. The so-called family members showed no signs of wailing, which would be normal even in North Korea.

Several points are noteworthy. The apologies of senior officials signify unusual public accountability. Some or all of them will be punished, possibly by execution.

Secondly, in North Korea, people's security includes safe construction and accident prevention. They are also the responsibility of the national police authority, which is the Ministry of People's Security.

Finally, the collapse is a huge embarrassment, which bodes ill for those responsible. North Korea only admits flaws in its system when it absolutely must, although construction methods are slipshod and standards are not enforced. This accident must have threatened riots in the capital.

Night Watch

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