Pyongyang Already in April Lockdown

Choi Song Min  |  2012-03-07 20:30
The North Korean authorities have stopped permitting entry to Pyongyang for non-residents of the city for all but the most important tasks, according to a source from the city.

The security measures are being implemented extremely early, and this is inevitably causing levels of interest in the impending 4th Chosun Workers’ Party Delegates’ Conference (scheduled for some time in mid April) and 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung on April 15th to rise.

A source from the North Korean capital reported by phone to Daily NK yesterday, “They have been strictly controlling the entry of people from the regions into Pyongyang since the General passed away, but since the 1st of this month entry they have almost completely prohibited it.”

According to the source, provincial residents are no longer able to obtain vacation transit permits. Irrespective of purpose, entering the city normally requires an approval number from the 2nd Department of Pyongyang City People’s Committee, with which the 2nd department of the applicant’s province, city or county people’s committee or individual enterprise can then issue a permit to travel for vacation or work. ‘2nd Departments’ are responsible for the movement of people in a given administrative area.

Efforts to weed out persons in neighboring areas whom might be planning to enter the city without a valid permit have also been stepped up, the source said.

Notably, permits are reportedly being checked as many as 30 times on all mainline trains travelling into the capital on lines from Tumengang, Musan, Chongjin and Shinuiju.

Things are similar on the roads, with so-called ‘No.10’ checkpoints, i.e. manned by National Security Agency forces, controlling movements at the city limits. At these checkpoints, which cover all major roads in and out of the capital (Junghwa No.10 on the road in from Hwangju, Seopo No.10 from Pyongsung, Majang No.10 from Pyongnam and Saeumul No.10 from Wonsan), checks include transit permits and comprehensive investigation of individual items of freight.

While North Korea is always a repressive place at times of special political importance, it is extremely rare to find the authorities closing down Pyongyang a full month before any event scheduled for April could possible start.

Normally such measures are implemented a maximum of two weeks beforehand. The only time in recent history of a comparable nature was prior to the September 28th, 2010 3rd Chosun Workers’ Party Delegates’ Conference at which the authorities were to unveil Kim Jong Eun for the first time. Then, entry into Pyongyang was prohibited as of September 1st, indicating the importance of the event.

The situation is making life very hard for traders, the source reported, saying, “They are cracking down on trains and servi-cha’s going to Pyongyang, so traders in Pyongsung, Sariwon, Nampo and other cities neighboring Pyongyang are in real trouble. Similarly, Pyongyang residents themselves cannot go very far, since it is only possible to get a permit for daytrips.”

The authorities have not made any public statements that might point to the cause of the shutdown.
 
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