Holidaying North Korean soldier arrested by Ministry of State Security

North Korean guards at a checkpoint in Sinuiju, North Pyongan Province
North Korean guards at a checkpoint in Sinuiju, North Pyongan Province. Image: Daily NK

A Korean People’s Army (KPA) soldier from Hyesan near the Chinese border was recently arrested and detained by Ministry of State Security (MSS) agents after returning to his hometown for a vacation prior to the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) elections.

The soldier was out buying items at a local market during a 10-day vacation period he had received in late February.

“The soldier had gone out to the market despite security in the area being heightened due to the upcoming elections in March. As he headed home with his purchases, he was stopped by a MSS agent. The two got into an argument after the soldier felt that the agent was treating him like a criminal,” a source in Ryanggang Province told Daily NK.

He said that the agent arrested the soldier after finding a foreign movie in his bag and, along with other agents, took him to a nearby border patrol office to investigate his case further.

According to a separate source in Ryanggang Province, the MSS agents had actually been watching the soldier’s movements for some time. The soldier’s older sister had disappeared three years ago and was suspected of having defected. The agents thought that the soldier taking a holiday right before the elections was suspicious and had been watching his movements since his return home.

The soldier had simply been stopped for questioning, but the involvement of the MSS agents created a major incident. While the soldier was held in custody, his identity was confirmed with his military unit, and after his family and the head of his local inminban further confirmed his identity, the soldier was released.

“The soldier had gotten a vacation to buy things that he needed at the military base, but he was just unlucky to have been arrested during a very politically sensitive period,” said the source. “The incident makes it seem that the MSS is needlessly prodding the KPA, and locals are saying that the MSS went too far this time.”

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