More Barbed Wire for the Border

The North Korean authorities are installing extra barbed-wire fences in areas around the border with China, in an apparent effort to reduce cross-border traffic.

A source from North Hamkyung Province told Daily NK on January 16th, “There never used to be barbed wires fences on each side of the border in Musan, but recently they have been installing them,” before continuing, “Extra barbed wire fences are being installed in most of the areas where people can come and go across the border.”

“It’s reminds me of the DMZ looked after by the Mingyung Corps,” the source added.

According to this source, previously in Musan County there was barbed-wire fencing in rural areas beyond the town center, but now there is fencing running all the way through the region including the area facing the downtown core.

Tourists heading to the border region overland from Yanji frequently take a course which takes them through Gaesantun to Soongsun. The route is broken by the Tumen River and so there used to be barbed-wire fencing only in certain areas. However, now there is barbed-wire fencing being constructed across the whole area.

A source from Yangkang Province claimed, “Border guard units have been fully deployed to set the stakes in preparation for the construction of barbed-wire fences.” He added, “If it carries on like this most of the routes out of North Korea will probably be cut off.”

At the moment it is not clear whether the authorities are only adding barbed-wire fencing in certain areas or aiming to close down the entire, 1416km-long border. The only way to be sure is to keep an eye on construction.

However, one defector from Musan told Daily NK, “Taking into consideration the economic situation in North Korea, it seems unlikely that the country is in a position to put barbed-wire fences across the entire border.” Another added, “There were rumors in the past that the whole border was going to be totally shut down, but it is actually impossible to fence the whole 1,000 kilometers or more from the end of North Hamkyung Province to Shinuiju.”

Nevertheless, and despite the difficulty of such a project, given that the authorities have turned firmly against defectors since the emergence of Kim Jon g Eun, bringing back guilt-by-association and ordering border troops to shoot-to-kill anybody attempting to defect, the possibility that a barbed-wire fence will be erected stretching the length of the entire border cannot be discounted as yet.

In addition, concrete frames have been spotted going up in various places along the Chinese side of the Sino-North Korean border as well, indicating that the Chinese authorities are also looking to step up efforts to keep defectors out.

Elsewhere, the North Korean authorities are still also working to banish the families of missing persons and defectors from border areas to more remote internal locations.

A source from North Hamkyung Province said, “Officials are going from house to house checking whether those who are registered as living there are actually doing so, and when someone is not there or cannot be located they cite that family as the family of a defector and exile them,” adding, “I’ve heard from NSA agents that the workmust be completed by April 15th.”

This source also said that border security patrols have been ordered to detain anybody loitering near the border, as well as to hand down equally tough punishments to anyone found concealing or not reporting such people.