50 Families Already Exiled from Hyesan

A substantial number of families have been caught in the net of the ‘Storm Trooper Unit’ allegedly dispatched by Kim Jong Eun earlier this month to bring order to the border regions, according to information received on the 17th.

Reporting the news, a Yangkang Province source told The Daily NK, “To date, 50 families have been exiled to the countryside from Hyesan alone.” It is a figure which has been reached in just two weeks since the arrival of the unit in the area.

According to the source, the belongings of those being exiled are being transported to the rural areas in cars or on oxcarts by students from the Provincial Party School mobilized for the task.

Those caught are mostly being sent to remote mountainous areas such as Pungseo, Samsoo and Gapsan County. These areas have been known as places for the exile of unwanted persons since the days of the Chosun Dynasty (1392-1910) and onward throughout the existence of North Korea.

The crackdown being led by the Storm Trooper Unit began on the 4th, according to sources. The unit has the authority to issue harsh summary punishments for things such as the trafficking of drugs and people, use of Chinese cell phones and association with disappeared persons or defectors.

In some quarters, the members of the unit have apparently earned themselves the nickname, ‘Secret Royal Inspectors’ for their activities, which include plain clothes inspections of the jangmadang. Secret Royal Inspectors were sent to regional areas by Chosun Dynasty kings to conduct covert inspections of a similar nature.

However, there are apparently already cases of persons sent into exile secretly returning to the city.

According to the source, “The majority of people sent from the city are returning downtown, complaining that it is all unfair and pleading their innocence.”

However, some never get the chance, the source said, explaining, “Some people caught and exiled for making a few calls to China are committing suicide. Two families from the Weeyeon area of Hyesan complained of their resentment and then killed themselves.”

Part of the problem is that the current situation is such a far cry from the previous state of affairs, in which people caught making calls to China, for example, could, no matter what the situation, pay a fine to free themselves from any further trouble. Now, however, the punishment for the same ‘crime’ has been elevated to domestic exile, creating immense local unease.

Even worse, it may not end as soon as people previously thought. According to the source, “In the beginning we thought it would be over in a month, but now there are rumors that it will be extended, so people are even less happy.”

“We are worried that with smuggling being banned, the price of everything is going to rise,” the source added, revealing also that “In particular, a company commander and political commissar apparently deserted a border guard base in the Songbong area of the city because they were implicated in human trafficking, so there the atmosphere is even more threatening.”