North Korean authorities are stepping up surveillance on family members of defectors to sever links in so-called “chain defections,” Daily NK has learned.
Citing the need to preempt “known escape movements,” the State Security Department is openly tailing North Korean residents with relatives in South Korea, following their every move “even when it involves traveling long distances,” a source in North Hamgyong Province told Daily NK on August 9.
“People say they can feel the agents watching whenever they leave the house, so now they try not to.”
Additional sources in Ryanggang Province and South Hamgyong Province confirmed this news.
Assigned agents drop in unannounced at family residences, menacingly threatening to “lock them away in sunless cells” if they are caught trying to escape the country, she said. The tight grip squeezing families of defectors, an enduring trend in the Kim Jong Un era, has grown stronger recently, most likely owing to an on-year increase in defector numbers.
However, those carrying out central orders are motivated by different incentives, as monitoring also means increased opportunity to solicit bribes from family members caught placing illegal phone calls outside of the country, most notably to South Korea.
“Security agents use people who have family in the South as a tool to make money. These agents are supposed to be at the forefront of the regime’s security but, for the most part, they’re just trying to get by like everybody else, extracting bribes from their monitoring subjects to eke by,” the source concluded.