A North Korean soldier watches a cruise ship from an army post near the
Yalu River in Dandong, Liaoning Province. Image: Daily NK
The North Korean government has strengthened crackdowns on the use of Chinese mobile phones and defections, while the Chinese government has intensified its crackdowns on smuggling activity. Recently, two North Korean soldiers reportedly crossed the river to borrow a Chinese mobile phone. Although desertion, plundering, and threats by North Korean soldiers are frequent in the Tumen River basin where the border between China and North Korea shortens, borrowing a phone is unusual.
“At dawn on September 16, two North Korean border guard soldiers appeared by the Tumen riverside in Jilin Province and borrowed a mobile phone from a Chinese person who was fishing at the time,” a source familiar with North Korean affairs in China told Daily NK.
“One of the soldiers asked the Chinese fisherman if he could borrow a phone to talk to a friend who communicates with both sides (China and North Korea).”
The waters of the Tumen River in the area are only at knee height, and the width of the river is less than 50 meters.
“The Chinese man said that the soldiers looked like they were in their 30s, and were not holding guns, despite wearing military uniforms. They disappeared after thanking the man for borrowing the phone in Korean,” a separate source in China with knowledge of the situation explained.
A source in North Hamgyong Province added, “The soldiers did not make any other demands or threats, but the fisherman says that he got scared and left the place quickly after he got his phone back. Recently, the authorities have even confiscated mobile phones from some of the border guard soldiers to block communication with the outside world. The current incident seems to have arisen because of these circumstances.”