North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has dispatched a joint inspection team to the Sino-North Korean border area to investigate and implement measures to prevent border-crossings and defections.
The developments are being seen as another attempt by the North Korean authorities to tighten down on border security following the recent deployment of new wiretapping and electronic signal interruption equipment along the border.
“The Ministry of People’s Security (MPS), Ministry of State Security (MSS), and the Defense Security Command created a joint inspection team to conduct activities in the border region areas of Pochon County, Kimjongsuk County and Huchang County in Ryanggang Province. The team was created under orders from Kim Jong Un and recently began working. Many people have since been arrested and punished,” a source in Ryanggang Province told Daily NK on November 29.
“The team is focused on cracking down on human trafficking, smuggling, and preventing border crossings and defections from taking place. The team is treating the Sino-North Korean border region as a second ‘38th Parallel.’ The authorities also reportedly declared that human trafficking is now considered “treason.”
A separate source in Ryanggang Province added, “The team is made of up three groups and around 20 people in total. They have been deployed to the area very quietly,” the source said. “After President Moon Jae-in’s visit in September, an emergency response meeting was held and [Kim Jong Un] reportedly handed down the order [to deploy the team] then.”
The inter-Korean relationship has improved as the two Koreas continue to increase exchanges and cooperation. The North Korean authorities, however, appear to be concerned about the subsequent weakening of ideology in the population, which could lead to more defections.
“The inspection team is focusing on two things. The first is to thoroughly investigate all cases of missing persons based on citizen registration documents and determine whether they are alive or dead,” the second Ryanggang-based source.
The families of defectors often tell the authorities that a defector-relative is a missing person. This is because there are significant consequences for families of defectors. The authorities are well aware of this kind of false reporting, and the reinvestigation into missing persons is really aimed at determining whether defections have occurred.
“The inspection team is investigating those who have committed human trafficking crimes in the past, have a criminal record as a border guard or soldier, and those who have been punished in the past but completed ideological training. The second thing the inspection team is focused on is understanding the depth of their ideological loyalty,” a source in Pyongyang explained.
“They are currently investigating the finances of people with marks on their records. If their financial situation has suddenly improved for no particular reason or their spending increased, it may suggest that a family member who defected is sending them money or they are working as a broker.”
The authorities are reportedly taking measures to prevent the leaking of information outside the country in parallel with efforts to prevent external information from getting in.
Daily NK recently reported that the authorities had imported a large number of electronic signal interruption and mobile phone wiretapping devices and deployed them near Hyesan, Sinuiju and other major cities straddling the Sino-North Korean border.