A group defection of 10 individuals was intercepted in the border area of North Hamgyong Province earlier this month. The Ministry of State Security has requested cooperation from the Chinese border guard and increased its surveillance of the border area.
There have been a series of family group defections first in Sukchon County in June, as well as in Yongchon County this month, and following these, a family in North Pyongan Province recently attempted a group defection in the border area. The Ministry of State Security (MSS) distributed photos of them, instructing residents to “report the traitors when you see them” and requested that the Chinese border guard “repatriate them after arrest.”
“Recently, there have been a series of family defections to China via smuggling ships in the border region of Sinuiju. The pictures of the family in Sukchon who defected in June are still being circulated, together with photos of the newly-defected family, adding to a tense atmosphere,” a source in North Pyongan Province told Daily NK on August 22.
“The family that recently defected were living in Yongchon, North Pyongan Province, and consists of 10 people. Their defection was reported two days after the incident, and the MSS started to trace them. In order to at least prevent them from entering South Korea, the MSS requested cooperation from the Dandong border guard, sending photos and specific information about the defectors, and expanded its surveillance activities.”
According to the source, the MSS first began tracking Chinese vessels actively involved in smuggling with their North Korean counterparts in order to identify vessels used by defectors. After identifying the suspected vessels in Dandong, the MSS handed the information to the Dandong border guard.
This was also confirmed by a source familiar with North Korean affairs in China. “The Chinese border guards have been frequently raiding the houses of merchants. Some of those suspected of aiding North Korean defectors were dragged to the office and investigated,” he said.
“The Chinese border guards and North Korean MSS are conducting operations daily across Liaoning Province, including at the bus terminal and the railway station. Despite the search operation, the defected family seems to have eluded them.”
The source in North Pyongan Province pointed out that Kim Jong Un, who has been sensitively responding to defection cases, likely regards the incident as a “major political event.”
“As the MSS failed to arrest any of the defectors, they can expect to be punished by Kim Jong Un. The MSS cadres affiliated with Border Security Command, as well as the MSS agents in charge of arresting the defected family may be expelled from the Party or purged,” she concluded.