The North Korean authorities have transferred the duty of tracking down and repatriating defectors in third countries from the National Security Agency (NSA) to the General Bureau of Reconnaissance (GBR). At the same time, GBR agents in their teens and early twenties are being dispatched to the field in an attempt to improve defector capture rates.
A source well acquainted with the situation along the Sino-North Korean border explained to Daily NK on the 8th, “The new GBR recruits apparently underwent intensive training from April before being sent out into the field to track defectors. They look really young, in their late teens or early twenties, but when you’re young it’s easy to master certain skills so in that respect they’re elite and their abilities are formidable.”
“In China people can’t carry guns or other lethal weapons, so they probably decided that it would be better to dispatch agents able to subdue defectors,” the source went on to claim.
In February, Daily NK received news that the North Korean authorities had dispatched a unit of 50 NSA personnel to China to seek out defectors. Not only did the men travel in the three northeastern provinces of Jilin, Heilongjiang and Liaoning; they also went to relatively distant inner provinces such as Shandong and Yunnan, widening the scope of their activities. Young and well-dressed, they were charged with checking for defectors on the Chinese public transport network.
However, GBR personnel appear to be employing different tactics, the source claimed. Moving in teams of three or four, they are supposedly operating in areas where there are often defectors, acting as if they wish to go to South Korea in order to come into contact with other, legitimate, defectors.
"They hide their identity until the last moment, then, just before the defectors are due to head for Thailand or Laos, they seize and repatriate them," the source claimed, adding, "This is one of the duties of these agents. They are also using defector families to try and lure defectors back to North Korea. It will be hard to avoid them.”