The North Korean authorities have recently completed the protracted installation of a barbed wire-fence, construction for
which began a few years ago, running along the entirety of the Yanggang Province’s national border in a bid to cut off escape attempts.
“The fence is hundreds of kilometers long,
stretching from Daehongdan County to Kimhyeongjik County,” a source from Yanggang Province informed Daily NK on August 18th. This news was corroborated by an additional source in the same province.
She added that the relative narrow nature of the Amrok River in
the western region of Yanggang Province and the Tumen River on the eastern side has prompted not only the construction of the expansive
barbed-wire fence but also stone walls between the same two counties, both
located in the upriver districts of the two waterways. Complicating matters more is the fact that, at present, heavy rains and subsequent rising water levels make crossing the river difficult enough, not to speak of the tightened patrol by Ministry of People’s Security [MPS] agents shutting down attempts by anyone brazen enough to attempt to get
across–be it for the purpose of smuggling or defection.
Moreover, at inminban [people’s unit] meetings
residents have been warned that even loitering along the riverbank outside of
designated hours is now synonymous with attempting to defect. Gratuitously
oppressive policies of this nature have not only dealt a blow to
would-be-defectors but to smugglers’ livelihoods.
The completion of the fence comes close on
the heels of tightened surveillance and wiretapping by the MPS and the State Security Department [SSD], aimed especially at tracking those
making overseas calls to South Korea to gain assistance in arranging the particulars for their defection process. As a result, scores have been caught making
the illicit calls and sent to long-term labor camps or re-education camps, the
source explained, noting, “Thus, there’s almost nobody trying to defect these
“I would say it’s basically impossible to
defect [in this area] right now. At this point, going to the banks of the river for any reason—no matter
how innocuous one’s intentions—results in soldiers charging at you and blowing
as hard as they can into their whistles,” she concluded.