I recently obtained information about nine more North Korean defectors arrested in Yanji; more bad news for South Korea-bound refugees. People hiding in areas across northeastern China are now living in perpetual fear of arrest and repatriation, it seems.
A new piece of guidance was issued by Dandong Korean Association on March 6th instructing members to “always carry your passport” as well. It is natural for foreigners to be told to carry around their passports, but unheard of for the Chinese Ministry of Public Security to tell an association to issue this kind of guidance. This seems to reflect what the Chinese authorities are trying to do just now.
In the name of a crackdown on illegal ticket transfers, the government now also demands that all persons buying and using train tickets be able to show identification. North Koreans in the country illegally are using buses instead, transferring multiple times.
But even this is not safe. Well-dressed gentlemen in their 30s and 40s can often be found riding these same buses. Close monitoring of their words and mannerisms reveals these men to be North Koreans.
They usually ride in groups of two or three. They sit separately, of course, but sometimes their voices can be heard as they report back by phone, saying things like ‘I have something to report’ or ‘Nobody got on the bus here’. However, if they are aware that a South Korean person is on the bus, they dial down their voices or stop making calls.
It is true that North Korea has always had active agents in China, especially in this region, but it was never like this.
At the end of last month, Daily NK exclusively revealed that roughly fifty operatives from the National Security Agency had been dispatched to oversee the apprehension and return of North Koreans from the area. The likelihood that these small groups of bus-riding, suit-wearing men are cut from the same cloth is by no means small.
Alas, the heat of protest at the repatriation of refugees cannot be felt here. The only heat in this town is that which leads to the arrest and repatriation of those trying to escape.