Three Ministry of State Security (MSS) agents defected from North Korea while in Shenyang, Liaoning Province, following the breakdown in negotiations between the US and North Korea in Hanoi. North Korean authorities are harshly reasserting control over North Korean officials and business people in China in response.
“There are a lot more North Koreans in China defecting than usual,” said a source close to North Korean affairs located in China. “The authorities are responding by heightening their monitoring of North Koreans in China.”
The source also added that North Korean authorities are conducting harsh levels of control over North Korean officials working in China’s major cities like Shenyang – where the recent defection incident took place – Beijing, Yanji, and Dandong.
“High-level officials that manage North Korean officials in China are receiving reports about where their underlings are and who they are meeting,” said the source. “Officials in China are required to call their managers at specific times and confirm that they are working where they should be.”
The source also reported that some managers are requiring not only that officials report their whereabouts. They also conduct “two-step” verification of their whereabouts by calling their underlings’ families. Managers are conducting harsh levels of monitoring of their employees because they know that the responsibility for any defection that occurs within their ranks will come back to them.
If any information is found to be false, the individual responsible must return back to North Korea and face harsh punishment, a separate source in China told Daily NK.
However, the source reported that North Korean traders working in China are unhappy about the level of monitoring they are facing, given that the thrust of their work involves extensive traveling and meeting a wide range of people. One trader, he said, pointed out how “ridiculous it is to tell us that we can’t leave our assigned regions.”
Another trader located in China told the Daily NK that “sanctions are making it more difficult to do business than in the past.”
“We have to send the Party money, but if we can’t even conduct our own business than we can’t meet our quotas. If we can’t make our quotas, we have to return home,” he said.
“My colleagues and I have to earn around 700,000 to one million US dollars per year to send back to the Party, but it’s impossible in these conditions, so everyone feels pretty despondent.”
South Korean intelligence officials are carefully watching the situation in North Korea following reports of several defections by North Korean officials in overseas locations after the US-North Korean summit in Hanoi.