New population census in the floodstricken regions potentially aims to discourage defections

The North Korean authorities have reportedly launched a new investigation into residential records in North Hamgyong Province, which was hit by massive flooding in September. The measure is being interpreted as a response to defections by local citizens as barbed-wire fences in the border area were damaged or destroyed in the flooding. 
On October 31, a Daily NK source in North Hamgyong Province reported that the Ministry of People’s Security (police) has started investigating the regional population to identify individuals who are either missing or dead.
“In Yonsa County, there are lot of missing people after the floods and some who lost most of their belongings in houses or farms went to stay with their relatives in other regions. The current reinvestigation into residential records seems to be focused on whether the missing persons have indeed died during the flooding or have defected from the country,” the source explained.
According to the source, the authorities have also started to investigate those residents in other regions who are staying with relatives. The heads of each neighborhood association are known to be visiting each house to check the number of residents. However, the investigation is deemed unlikely to be informative due to the sheer number of people who were displaced and are missing.   
“There are cases where individuals are declared dead by the regional Ministry of People’s Security or district office without evidence, even though the family are still trying to determine the whereabouts of the missing family member,” he said.
“Some residents, who were already presumed to have defected during the flood, were determined to be staying with relatives in other regions. Therefore, it will be practically impossible to properly investigate so many people.”
Considered in this context, the current investigation seems intent on discouraging further defections rather than to identify missing or dead people. The authorities are possibly aiming to preempt a wave of defections when the river freezes over in winter.
“Word among residents is that the Ministry of People’s Security personnel are frantically running around because the barbed wire fences were destroyed and they will not be able to suppress people’s determination (to escape) even after the fences are restored,” said another source in North Hamgyong Province.
“Some individuals who were considering defection have fled to other regions in the wake of the flooding, taking advantage of the fact that they might be classified as missing or dead due to the large number of damaged bodies beyond identification.”
Meanwhile, the exterior construction of some newly-built houses is said to be completed in Yonsa County of North Hamgyong Province. To achieve these results, soldiers and workers mobilized for interior finishings are reportedly working three shifts each day, as the cold weather is already starting to freeze the ground.