North Korea is dismantling guard posts along major roads in areas near China in a bid to ease traffic and the flow of smuggled and imported goods in the sanctions-hit country, North Korean sources say.
Inspections at multiple points along the roads, sometimes at checkpoints staffed by farm and factory guards, had previously slowed distribution and enabled demands for the payment of bribes, a source in North Hamgyong province told RFA’s Korean Service.
“State Security and People’s Security police posts used to be situated throughout the area,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Even guards from factories and farms used to set up posts in different places.”
More than 10 guard posts were once located on the road from Hoeryong city, on the border with China, to Chongjin, a major trading hub on North Korea’s northeast coast, RFA’s source said.
“Vehicles had to stop at each post for I.D. and travel pass checks and the inspection of goods, and the guards collected bribes by dragging out the inspection process,” he said.
Most of these checkpoints have now been removed, though, making it easier for residents of North Korea’s border areas to travel, the source said, adding, “It seems that the authorities have closed them down in order to help the residents’ business activities.”
Only one checkpoint, State Security Office No. 10’s guard post, now remains on the road from Hoeryong to Chongjin, and the distribution of imported goods is “speeding up,” a second source in North Hamgyong said.
“People who travel from inland areas to the border areas still need to have their identification card and border travel pass in their possession, while border-area residents only need to bring their identification card to travel anywhere within the province,” the source said.
“It has now become much easier to smuggle goods from China through any border area cities.”
Because of the many inspections required by State Security and People’s Security checkpoints in the past, “residents from the border areas had to prepare bribes for the guards before they could travel,” the source said.
“Now their lives are much easier.”
Reported by Jieun Kim for RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Leejin Jun. Written in English by Richard Finney.