The North Korean authorities are conducting an extensive investigation into the actions of soldiers attached to border guard units, based on the presumption that such guards are frequently guilty of aiding and abetting defection. Those found to have done so are being arrested and severely punished.
A source from Yangkang Province explained the news yesterday, “For the third time they are conducting an investigation along the border in Kim Jong Eun’s name, but this time it is focused on the soldiers.”
“The decree says to arrest and severely punish soldiers who have aided and abetted in defection, to pull out the roots; so the investigation has been harsh from the very beginning.”
The two previous investigations into defection from the border region, both said to have been launched in the name of the successor, happened in February and April this year, as reported by The Daily NK. However, this is the first time that attention has turned away from defectors themselves and towards those soldiers who help facilitate a lot of the escapes.
“There are two members of an investigation team from Defense Security Command going to every guard post, and they are questioning the soldiers one by one,” the source said.
It is well known both within and without North Korea that border guards are commonly bribed to turn a blind eye to defection. Through very serious questioning and the threat of severe punishment, the authorities are presumably hoping to kill two birds with one stone; both hindering further defections and re-instilling military discipline.
However, the new investigation has already inspired at least two guards from one post to desert instead of face censure, according to the source.
“Two men from a guard post in the Hyesin-dong area of Hyesan took their weapons and deserted, so now they are in the middle of a house-to-house investigation,” the source explained, adding, however, “People are saying, ‘They’ve already fled to China, why the hell would they still be in the country?’”
Although nobody knows why the two men chose to desert, the source said he had heard that they were indeed involved in defections, and feared punishment.
Across the Tumen River in Changbai, China, meanwhile, there is also an unusually intense investigation going on, according to sources there. It is suspected that the two events are related.
A source explained, “Public security officers and soldiers are stopping and investigating cars one by one. I heard that soldiers from North Korea deserted with their guns, so maybe it is because of that.”
Of course, the investigation is hurting small traders, too.
“Big-time smugglers are not having problems,” the Yangkang Province source explained. “But day-to-day small scale smugglers are complaining about the investigation. Border guards are telling them to put up with it just a little more.”