North Korea recently declared the start of a “special security period” in the Sino-North Korean border region in the runup to the Eighth Party Congress, which is scheduled to take place in early January, Daily NK has learned.

The declaration was made in an order handed down on Dec. 26 by North Korea’s Central Committee and Cabinet, a Yanggang Province-based source told Daily NK yesterday.

The special security period will last from Dec. 28 to Jan. 15, based on the order seen by the source. Pyongyang’s special security period, in contrast, is only expected to last until Jan. 9.

The special security period will last until Jan. 15 in the border region because localities will likely be holding “rallies” with local representatives who will have returned home from Pyongyang after the Eighth Party Congress.

The move to declare the special security period in the Sino-North Korean region may also be part of efforts to prevent defections and other “unseemly” incidents from occurring in the area. Daily NK recently confirmed a report, for example, that suggests an armed North Korean soldier defected across the border to China earlier this month.

Statues of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il inside the Kumsusan Palace of the Su
Statues of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il inside the Gumsusan Palace of the Sun. Image: Rodong Sinmun

Interestingly, the order directs locals to actively “protect” statues of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, along wall murals of the leaders, for around 20 days. The authorities have reportedly claimed that locals must “prepare for an attack from enemies” and ensure there are no electricity “blackouts” during the period.

The order also directs locals to take part in efforts to secure the Sino-North Korean border. What this means is that one person from each household much participate in two-person teams that will patrol the border.

Moreover, the order calls for the elimination of any “abnormal behavior,” such as international phone calls, money-changing activities, and any attempts to cross over the border into China.

According to the source, the order also states that “not one person must die” during the special security period. The emphasis on preventing any mishaps before or during the Eighth Party Congress appears to be connected with the broader propaganda push to make the congress the impetus for a “major change” in the country.

Locals, however, are calling the new order “abnormal” and complaining that, despite the passage of time, the government still does not seem to have any answers to the problems confronting the country.

Some locals are arguing that the “80-day battle” has made an “even bigger mess of production and labor,” and that the government does not understand the realities faced by the people, some of whom are dying of starvation. Locals are even complaining that the government is “just handing them rice and potatoes in the hope they won’t die.”

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Lee Sang Yong is editor-in-chief of Daily NK and previously spent a number of years working as one of the publication’s foreign correspondents in China. He can be reached at