Following strong complaints from locals, Hyesan’s sudden lockdown order, which was handed down on Mar. 3, was downgraded on Mar. 4, Daily NK has learned.

A source in Yanggang Province told Daily NK on Friday that people were allowed to leave their houses from 6 PM on Mar. 4. He also noted that “markets have reopened and people are commuting to work.”

The original lockdown order directed people to stay in their homes, closed markets and workplaces, and prohibited any movement in the city.

As part of efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19, North Korean authorities have locked down certain areas near the Sino-North Korean border for long periods of time if anyone is discovered sneaking over the Sino-North Korean border. The lockdown orders have included prohibiting people from leaving their homes, and closing markets and workplaces.

People stuck in lockdown conditions have no way to obtain food, and there have been cases in which some people have faced the fear of starvation (article in Korean) because they are unable to secure food supplies.

Hyesan was put under lock down in November 2020 and January 2021, and locals reportedly faced very difficult times during these lockdown periods.

When Hyesan was suddenly put under another lockdown last week, people in the city reportedly became very anxious because the authorities did not give them time to acquire food supplies. Additionally, when the authorities failed to guarantee the supply of food, this anxiety turned into anger among many people in the city.

Hyesan, Ryanggang Province in August 2018
Apartments can be seen in Hyesan, Yanggang Province in this August 2018 photo. / Image: Daily NK

The authorities moved to downgrade the lockdown when they realized the widespread anger could lead to unrest in the city, based on the source’s account.

The downgrading of the lockdown order only applies to activities occurring within Hyesan city limits; locals are still not allowed to travel to areas outside of the city.

“People are still prohibited from going out of the city, and outsiders are not allowed in,” the source said, adding, “It’s fortunate they are allowing movement within the city at least.”

An unidentified individual who had defected to China several years ago was caught in Hyesan after sneaking back into the city in late February. The authorities handed down the lockdown order soon after the incident was made known.

The individual in question is still being interrogated by Ministry of State Security officials from Pyongyang in a provincial security agency detention center.

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Mun Dong Hui is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about his articles to