Ministry of State Security entices defector back to North Korea with passport offer

Border area of North Hamgyong Province as seen in June 2019
Border area of North Hamgyong Province as seen in June 2019. Image: Daily NK

North Korea’s Ministry of State Security (MSS) is using the promise of passports for free passage across the Sino-North Korean border to lure defectors in China, Daily NK has learned.

“A defector living in China heard from a family member that the North Korean authorities were giving out passports to defectors. When he returned to North Korea, he was soon arrested,” said a Daily NK source in China.

The source provided more details about the defector’s story.

In May, the defector learned from a family member that an MSS official had stated that the North Korean authorities were issuing passports to allow defectors in China to acquire dual nationality and freely move between China and North Korea. These passports would normally cost around 1.7 million South Korean won.

MSS officials visited the house of the defector’s family in Onsong County over the past year to tell them about the passport, in what amounted to an “operation” to entice the defector back to North Korea.

While the defector was suspicious after hearing about the passport, he decided to cross back into North Korea to see his parents and siblings.

He entered North Korea in early June and hid for around 10 days in an area outside his hometown. He was concerned that the MSS had laid a trap for him.

Feeling confident that it was not a trap, he then headed to his family’s home. MSS agents lying in wait arrested him upon his arrival at the house.

The defector and all of his family members were arrested by the MSS and no news about the family has emerged for the past month.

“Locals say that the defector’s parents were involved in aiding defections last year and were arrested by the MSS before being released after paying a bribe,” a separate source in China familiar with the case told Daily NK.

“The MSS accused the defector of cooperating with a broker at the time and have since tried to capture him through his family.”

The source also added that locals have not been informed of the whereabouts of the family since they were arrested and that people think they will probably be taken to a political prison camp.