North Korea’s recent efforts to promote anti-defector sentiment are having some effect in the Sino-North Korean border area, Daily NK has learned. 

“Because of the recent leaflet incident, crackdowns in border areas have become more frequent,” a North Hamgyong Province-based source told Daily NK yesterday. 

The increase in crackdowns on certain market-related activities has led to growing resentment against families of defectors, the source said, adding that the crackdowns have also led to a decrease in smudging activities and the arrest of several moneylenders in Ryanggang and North Hamgyong provinces.

North Koreans in the area seem to be increasingly wary of defector families and fear being dragged into problems because of them. Life for ordinary residents in cities on the Sino-North Korean border has become increasingly difficult as the crackdowns have resulted in less products available at markets and very little remittance money coming in from abroad. 

The difficult situation has led many residents to complain about defector families, with some going as far as branding them “collaborators.” 

“Even children of defector families are immediately treated as outcasts. That’s how bad the situation has become,” the source explained.

As a result of the heightened tensions, a growing number of families of North Korean defectors are reportedly complaining of symptoms of anxiety in border areas.

“There have been many cases of people receiving phone calls and even house visits from strangers [likely security officials],” the source said, adding, “Although it’s not the first time defector families have experienced this kind of treatment, they agree that it’s worse this time.”

*Translated by Gabriela Bernal

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Kang Mi Jin
Kang Mi Jin is a North Korean defector turned journalist who fled North Korea in 2009. She has a degree in economics and writes largely on marketization and economy-related issues for Daily NK. Questions about her articles can be directed to