North Korea has dispatched around 3,000 members of an elite military force named the “Storm Corps” to some parts of the Sino-North Korean border, Daily NK has learned.

A source in North Hamgyong Province told Daily NK yesterday by phone that he had personally confirmed that members of the unit, some of whom have been deployed to North Hamgyong Province, were in Musan County and Bochon County, which is in Yanggang Province.

The “Storm Corps” was reportedly created by Kim Jong Il in 1999 when he ordered the reformation of the Training Unit Guidance Bureau (an agency tasked with managing the military’s elite forces). By 2014, the military’s Unit 570 had become part of the Storm Corps, which is known as an elite unit made up of “airborne ranger”-like units and light infantry.

The Storm Corps is tasked with conducting various espionage and “military disruption activities” to create a “second front line” if a war breaks out on the Korean Peninsula.

Currently around 20,000 soldiers in the corps are undergoing intense training to conduct “special operations,” according to the source.

Daily NK was unable to identify the exact reason why members of this force have been sent to the Sino-North Korean border region so suddenly. Daily NK’s source in the country suggested that it may be connected with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s recent emphasis on strengthening border controls following the recent return of a North Korean defector.

“I am hearing that they were sent to the border to ensure COVID-19 doesn’t enter the country, perhaps because the defector who returned to Kaesong told [the authorities] that a lot of people are defecting across the border,” the source said.

“There are several rumors floating around about [why] the Storm Corps soldiers were sent to the border, but it seems clear they were sent there to ensure the border remains completely closed,” he added.

According to the source, North Korea sent Storm Corps troops to the Sino-North Korean border in 2011 as part of two-month-long operation against defections and illicit drug smuggling.

They were also sent to the border in 2015, he continued, noting that the identification numbers of the troops have been different each time they were deployed to the area.

“In 2015, they were deployed under the [identification] number 848, but I’m unaware of what the number is being used for the Storm Corps troops deployed this year,” he said.

“People generally accept the rumors that the Storm Corps have been deployed to prevent COVID-19 from entering the country and stopping defectors,” the source further reported, adding, “Many people [living near the border] have been unable to engage in smuggling activities because of COVID-19, and the recent incident involving the defector has only made life harder for them.”

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

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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 dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.