Three Party cadres flee, SSD in pursuit

Seol Song Ah  |  2016-02-05 12:10
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North Korea has dispatched a compact special team of State Security Department [SSD] personnel to China tasked with the capture of three wanted Party cadres: two who fled from North Korea and one who fled his post in China. The sweep comes amid an uptick in cadres hatching escape plans, citing anxiety instilled by Kim Jong Uns penchant for fearpolitik tactics.

A source close to North Korean affairs currently residing in China told Daily NK on Thursday that the three-man task force has not only been combing through the usual border area locals-- Shenyang, Yanji, etc.--but extended the search as far inland as Beijing.  An additional source in China, also personally involved with this matter, corroborated this news. 

The task force has been commanded to exercise absolute discretion, attempting to covertly track down the wanted parties by canvassing areas including, but not limited to, North Korean consulates, restaurants run by the North in China, and trading operations headed by the Korean-Chinese community. 

Wielding photos of the escapees and leaving no stone unturned in its expansive search, "the team is feverishly doing everything it can to arrest and repatriate these Party cadres," he said. 

Pyongyang has hitherto dispatched agents from the SSD and General Reconnaissance Bureau to arrest defectors and those who overstay their personal travel permits in China, sending cohorts of some 150 agents to do the job at times. This, the source said, spurred by Kim Jong Uns repatriate escapees without question directive.

However, the decision to send such a small group on this occasion is unusual, and indicative of how desperate the state is to try to keep this incident under wraps. 

The team has only requested help from managers who double as SSD undercover informants at foreign-currency earning offshoots in China. They secretly monitor and report back on the activities of their assistant managers and other employees," he said. "Also, the help theyve solicited from the Korean-Chinese community has only come from those with a reputation for being tight-lipped and having a longstanding trade relationship with North Korea." 

But no degree of stealth can match the power word of mouth commands, with rumors already flying about the prominent escapees among the North Korean community in China. Said rumors point to the possibility for one of the defectors in question to be among some high-level officials at overseas post said to have recently and suddenly severed the line of communication, according to the source, who reasoned that the state will not grow the task force for fear of inciting more speculation.

Worryingly for the task force agents, failure to bring in the defectors is only excused by locating their whereabouts, and if they cant even figure out that much, they would find it hard to save  their own lives, he explained. 

On some occasions, if these agents are neither able to locate the escapees nor arrest them, they look for other ways to produce results and sidestep repercussions from more senior officials. Forging documents is one way, by making them appear as though the persons of interest have fled to South Korea or were murdered. 

Other methods involve going after droves of regular defectors to try to produce tangible achievements, he said, adding that this is why North Korean refugees hiding in China, already vulnerable to forcible repatriation at the hands of the Chinese authorities, should exercise extra caution under these conditions. 

*Translated by Jiyeon Lee

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