Officers rather than ordinary enlisted soldiers have recently been deployed to build makeshift structures as part of efforts to prevent border crossings and defections in Yanggang Province, a region along the Sino-North Korean border.

A source in Yanggang Province told Daily NK on Tuesday that in the middle of August, the authorities began building temporary structures to prevent defections in border regions such as Samsu and Sinpa (Kimjongsuk) counties. “Officers over the rank of major from the 10th Corps, which is based in Yanggang Province, have been mobilized for the effort,” he said. 

North Korea has been building a wire fence and wall along the Sino-North Korean border since last year, ostensibly to protect against COVID-19.

However, critics find it highly unlikely that the project will be completed by the initially targeted date of Oct. 10 — Party Foundation Day — due to difficulties brought about by supply shortages and pilfering.

Accordingly, in some areas, soldiers have been seen erecting makeshift structures with empty bottles and tins hanging from them.

This appears aimed at putting a thorough stop to defections resulting from economic difficulties. North Korean authorities have closed off the border with two-fold and even three-fold security, deploying the “Storm Corps” special forces unit and Seventh Corps to the frontier. However, with defection attempts continuing through more loosely surveilled areas, the authorities have moved to “completely seal” the border.

fencing
North Korean soldiers seen constructing fences along the border last year. / Image: Daily NK

The source said soldiers “are felling commonly seen trees such as larches and oaks and [using the logs] to block the border with big Xs.”

“They seem intent on using any means possible to prevent people or animals from entering or leaving.”

The mobilization of officers is an interesting development. The source says this, too, is aimed at preventing defections.

“Food provisions to soldiers this year were even more miserable than last year,” he said. “Officers with families were organized for the work because with malnutrition getting worse, ordinary soldiers could try to defect while they worked on the project.”

However, with even the officers suffering poor nutrition, locals sarcastically wonder “whether such a miserable army has ever before existed.”

That is to say, rumors are reportedly spreading that “while majors, lieutenant colonels and colonels have been mobilized for the work, they are so thin they look malnourished” and “the officers look so unwell, it goes without saying that the enlisted men must be even worse.”

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