North Korea completely locked down Hyesan, a city in Yanggang Province, from 6 PM yesterday, Daily NK has learned. A source in the province told Daily NK that the lockdown was implemented soon after it was discovered someone had snuck into the city from China.
“At 3:30 PM today district inminban, government agencies, and other organizations were told by the authorities that all movement was to be restricted from 6 PM and that everyone should go home because a one-month-long lockdown is going to be implemented,” a source in Yanggang Province told Daily NK yesterday, using a term describing North Korea’s lowest administrative unit.
The sudden lockdown order led to a rush among people in the city to get home, the source further reported.
Checkpoints along the borders of each of the city’s districts (dong) were ordered to quickly send everyone home, without even bothering to crack down on any illegal activity. On a street heading toward Bochon County, the provincial party’s propaganda department sent out a vehicle with a speaker to go around and tell people to go home as soon as possible, even threatening “If you don’t go home now, you won’t be able to [later].”
“The sudden lockdown order led everyone to quickly dash for their homes as if a war had broken out,” the source said. “[The lockdown order] prohibits people from leaving their homes for a month from 6 PM [yesterday], which means they can’t go to work or go anywhere else. Even the markets have been shut down.”
The authorities handed down the lockdown order because someone had secretly entered Hyesan on Feb. 1 after illegally crossing the border into China.
This individual was not discovered by the border patrol and was hiding in Hyesan when one of the city’s inminban reported him on Feb. 2 as a “suspicious person.”
Following the person’s arrest, the incident was reported to the country’s central government. Central government authorities dispatched five members of the Ministry of State Security and the Anti-epidemic Quarantine Committee in the belief that the case was serious and did not just involve a simple act of smuggling or was an attempted defection.
At 12 AM on Feb. 3, the central government authorities dispatched to the city, along with representatives from the provincial and municipal parties, and members of the city’s security agencies, prosecutor’s office, courts, and disease control office, held an “emergency quarantine expanded commission” to discuss locking down Hyesan. After receiving permission from the central authorities, the city announced the lockdown order at 3 PM yesterday.
“According to the families of officials [who heard about the meeting], provincial and municipal party representatives raised concerns that another lockdown of the city would make things even more difficult for the people and that people could again starve to death,” the source said. “The central government officials, however, argued vehemently that because this was the first time someone had snuck into the city undetected [from China], it was imperative that the city be locked down no matter how tough things get.”
The source also told Daily NK, based on what the families of Ministry of State Security officials said, that the person who snuck into the city was not just an “illegal border crosser,” but someone who had once lived in South Korea.
“There are rumors that Hyesan has been put into lockdown just like Kaesong was in July of last year,” the source added.
The individual, now in custody of the authorities, is reportedly being interrogated by Ministry of State Security officials at a provincial security detention center.