North Korea’s Ministry of State Security (MSS) recently held a meeting of high-level officials where they were told to severely punish perpetrators of illegal activities in the border region, Daily NK has learned. 

“The MSS called officials from around the country together at the end of last month for a meeting,” a source in the country told Daily NK on June 6. “During the meeting, ministry officials made it clear that those causing trouble in border regions were not worth rehabilitating and ordered severe punishments to be delivered without exception.”

The ministry reportedly convened the meeting on short notice for the high-level officials. Early this month, MSS offices in each province conducted “training” with staff ranked section chief or higher at the city or county level, according to the source. 

During the training, MSS officials reportedly stressed the importance of harsh punishments for those breaking the law near the border, stating that the party has ordered that those who break the law and fail to heed its orders “should not be reeducated”; instead they should be “unconditionally” subjected to “harsh criminal sentences.”

While pointing out that smuggling, human trafficking, defecting and other illegal acts taking place in the border region are crimes against the state, MSS officials said that the party has ordered that “low-level rehabilitative measures” such as being sent to reeducation camps “should be done away with,” and that it is now perfectly acceptable to “hand out severe punishments and let [law breakers] rot in prison for a long time.”

During the meetings, MSS officials also said that the initial targets of these efforts should be family members of officials who abuse their authority to brazenly commit illegal acts such as using Chinese mobile phones to smuggle goods, transfer money or engage in human trafficking. 

MSS officials at the training also reportedly said that the family members and relatives of party officials, security officials and even judiciary officials who commit crimes must be treated as “ideological deviants” rather than ordinary criminals. These lawbreakers must now be treated as “political criminals” and they must not be granted “any forgiveness,” the source told Daily NK, based on what was said during the training. 

MSS officials at the training also raised concerns that people around the country may become ideologically weak as their lives become more impoverished. 

“We must mercilessly punish citizens who engage in illegal acts or rebel against the state in areas even outside the border region,” one was quoted as saying. 

“News of the MSS meeting [late last month] has already spread and people are saying they must be careful to avoid getting caught [and made an example of],” the source told Daily NK, further speculating, “People living close the border will make an effort to use illegal [Chinese] phones less while brokers and smugglers will reduce their activities as well.”

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Jong So Yong is one of Daily NK's freelance reporters. Questions about her articles can be directed to