After North Korea declared a state of emergency in Kaesong Special City, the city near the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) where a North Korean defector recently returned to the country, local civil defense forces entered a state of “emergency mobilization,” Daily NK has learned. 

“The government declared a state of emergency mobilization for civil defense units within Kaesong, including the Worker-Peasant Red Guards, because of an incident involving a defector crossing over the border,” a source in Kaesong told Daily NK on July 30. “They are undergoing training at a level on par with times of war.” 

According to the source, the Civil Defense Department of the Kaesong Party Committee relayed an order at midnight of July 26 to all civil defense forces in Kaesong, including paramilitary training units and the Worker-Peasant Red Guards affiliated with various organizations and businesses. Units were instructed to equip themselves with emergency food supplies for 15 days – along with necessities, camouflage nets and rifles – and then gather for an emergency meeting to inspect their levels of readiness.

After calling the civil defense forces together and inspecting the necessities the units had collected, the authorities sent them on an eight kilometer night march while ordering a full search of the mountains near Kaesong, claiming that the area had been infiltrated by an “impure element.” 

The Kaesong Party Committee ordered that the training should be repeated for two weeks and noted that staff from the central government’s Civil Defense Department would be brought in to oversee the training and conduct a “full inspection.” 

“As reported in the Rodong Sinmun, the government has made it clear that this training is connected to the incident with the defector,” the source told Daily NK. “This is being used to stir up negative sentiment against defectors among the people.”


Kaesong residents are reportedly struggling to come up with 15 days worth of food to carry out the order, especially households with family members in the Worker-Peasant Red Guards and other civil defense forces. 

Many households are living day-to-day due to the COVID-19 pandemic and face difficulties conducting “business” (at local markets) when the country is in “war posture.” It is a huge burden for many people to collect enough food for 15 days, the source said. 

The Ministry of State Security (MSS) has also been spreading propaganda to North Koreans since the defector incident. One leaflet has reportedly said: “We must maintain revolutionary vigilance in all places and at all times, and keep the motherland safe by establishing a thorough system where any infiltration by enemies is promptly discovered and reported.”

On July 26, Rodong Sinmun and other North Korean state-run media reported that a man suspected of having COVID-19 illegally crossed the Military Demarcation Line and returned to North Korea after defecting to South Korea three years ago.

According to the reports, Kim declared a “state of emergency” in Kaesong at an emergency meeting on July 26 while also implementing a “maximum emergency system” and issuing a “top-class alert.” 

Daily NK reported last week that the returnee had turned himself in to Kaesong authorities and is currently being interrogated in an isolated room at the Kaesong MSS compound. Daily NK also understands that an investigation into the 2nd and 4th corps, which patrol the border where the man “re-defected,” is currently underway.

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Jong So Yong is one of Daily NK's freelance reporters. Questions about her articles can be directed to