A North Korean couple celebrates their wedding at a monument to North Korea’s ruling Worker’s Party on Oct. 19, 2007, in Pyongyang, North Korea. Wedding celebrations face possible trouble after a new decree banned drinking alcohol in groups larger than three in North Korea. (Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)
In an effort to crack down on drunken criticisms of the regime, North Korea is instituting a restriction on drinking, throttling one of the few fun things North Koreans were allowed to do.
Poor and oppressed, North Koreans, particularly outside Pyongyang, have neither the means nor the freedom to pursue levity.
One of the most popular forms of entertainment there is the same nearly everywhere else: getting together with friends and listening to music and dancing, with some drinks to ease the mood.
But there is a worrying side effect of drunken revelry: those same lowered inhibitions that lead to off-key karaoke can also lead to the kind of political talk that is very dangerous to the regime.
A North Korean soldier stands guard on the Yalu river north of the border city of Sinuiju, North Korea, across from Dandong in northern China on May 24, 2017. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)
Fear of this has led North Korea’s Ministry of People’s Security to put restrictions on the consumption and sale of alcohol at restaurants in Pyongyang and social events around the country.
According to Daily NK, a news site with sources inside North Korea, authorities are working to hamper prohibited political conversations.
“Starting from the beginning of November, the Ministry of People’s Security (MPS) has been plastering decrees on restaurants in Pyongyang and those outside the city on collective farms (but run by individuals) declaring that the pervasive drinking culture must be eradicated,” a source in Pyongyang told Daily NK on Nov. 22.
The decree strictly bans homebrewing alcohol, more than three people gathering in one place to drink alcohol, and public disturbances while intoxicated.
In Pyongyang, where the decrees have been plastered around the city, citizens are told not to engage in idle chatting at drinking parties and that celebrations like weddings, where dancing and singing is common, will be equated with excessive drinking.
“If one finds themselves at a drinking occasion due to unavoidable circumstances, they must report it to their affiliated societal organization and be finished no later than 10 p.m., upon which the establishment must shut down,” the ordinance warns, according to Daily NK.
According to sources inside North Korea, the decrees have caused restaurants to limit alcohol sales and cadres have started avoiding home gatherings where food and alcohol are served.
North Koreans wait at a trolleybus stop in Pyongyang on July 28, 2017. A new decree in North Korea bans drinking in groups larger than three in an effort to curb prohibited political talk. (ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
It used to be that North Koreans could expect distributions of alcohol from the regime on important dates like the founding of the regime and the the birthdays of its previous rulers, Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il.
Those taps are no longer flowing, however.