North Korean security measures along the border with China have been further tightened in recent days, following authorities’ failure to stop smuggling and defections during a previously declared period of special vigilance, North Korean sources say.
At the end of January, North Korean authorities launched a special month-long security mobilization period in the run-up to the Feb. 8 anniversary of the North Korean military, with travel restricted around the country, sources told RFA in earlier reports.
Deployments of border guards and other forces were then doubled through Feb. 20 to prevent mass defections or other embarrassing incidents during the Winter Olympics now being held in Pyeongchang, South Korea, sources said.
With defections and smuggling continuing unhindered, though, North Korea’s Central Committee has now ordered an even further tightening of controls at the border, a source in North Korea’s North Hamgyong province, bordering China, told RFA’s Korean Service this week.
“In Hoeryong city and Onsong county, guards are now being changed at their posts every 30 minutes,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Previously, border guards were rotated every two and a half hours, but the time they spend at their posts has now been drastically shortened,” the source said.
“It is unclear whether this new policy for border guards is only being applied locally or all along the border, but the rules for guards on duty at assigned posts are usually the same in all the border areas,” he said.
'Border completely closed'
Noting that North Korea’s extended security period will still run through Feb. 20, RFA’s source said that this initial extension was ordered to prevent incidents not only during the Feb. 8 anniversary of the North Korean military, but also the Feb. 16 birthday of former North Korean leader Kim Il Sung, called the Day of the Shining Star.
Border security has also been tightened in North Korea’s border province of Yanggang, a source in Yanggang told RFA this week, adding, “The border is now completely closed.”
“The Central Committee had been trying hard to stop defections and smuggling along the Tumen and Yalu rivers, but they failed, as some residents and border guards had been secretly working together in smuggling and other kinds of livelihood activities.”
“Since the Central Committee’s State Affairs Commission issued orders to secure the border areas, the guards are being managed by battalion, and their places of duty are frequently being changed,” he said.
Special security periods are usually put in force around New Year’s Day, the birthdays of national leaders, and other political holidays, leaving North Korean residents of border areas blocked in their efforts to earn a living, sources say.
Reported by Jieun Kim for RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Leejin Jun. Written in English by Richard Finney.