North Korea Tightens Controls on Travel in Run-Up to Ruling Party Anniversary

nk-workers-party-monument-june-2013.jpg The Monument to the North Korean Workers' Party in Pyongyang is shown in a file photo.

North Korean authorities are imposing strict controls on the movements of officials and the public, sealing off access to major cities and creating a “frightening” atmosphere in advance of celebrations marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Korean Workers’ Party on Saturday, sources said.

Tight restrictions on public travel, extending now to the movements of government workers, began to be imposed on Oct. 1, a source in the country’s northern Yanggang province, bordering China, told RFA’s Korean Service this week.

“Officials belonging to the Party, the government, and law enforcement agencies have all been given an order to stand by to be mobilized at any time,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Authorities in the province have also dispatched security guards along all roads and trails linking the provincial capital Heysan to other local areas, and potato supplies—usually transported to the capital directly from local cooperative farms—have been temporarily suspended, RFA’s source said.

Security forces now routinely detain anyone found out after 10:00 p.m., “leading them away to their guard posts for a thorough search,” the source said, adding that large public celebrations such as weddings and birthdays have been ordered postponed until after the founding day celebrations on Oct. 10.

Funeral services must also be held quietly and in private during the restricted period, with a ban on family members traveling from other areas to attend, the source said.

Security along the border with China has also now been tightened, “with as many security personnel and methods of control employed as possible,” a source in North Hamgyong province told RFA.

Guards from North Korea’s Border Security Battalion have now been joined along the border by special task forces, patrols, and canine units assigned to the Security Department of the Workers’ Party, the source said.

“I’ve experienced a lot of controls at the border before, but this is the first time I have felt such a frightening level of security alert,” he said.

“There is now a quasi-wartime atmosphere in the border areas in the lead-up to the Oct. 10 anniversary,” the source said, adding, “The whole country feels like a big prison as the authorities closely monitor the daily activities not only of the ordinary people but of officials too.”

Reported by Sung-Hui Moon for RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Changsop Pyon. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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