The Ministry of State Security (MSS), North Korea’s feared security agency, has deployed special patrols on the Sino-North Korean border to control the flow of information and goods in the new year, Daily NK sources reported.

“The Ministry of State Security deployed a special unit to the border regions to patrol roads and to help man guard posts to prevent smuggling of contraband,” one source in the region told Daily NK.

“Even if [the state] carries out increased patrols at the end of the year they normally leave after the first of the year, but this year the patrols have continued into the new year,” said the source. 

North Koreans who engage in smuggling or run money remittance businesses are reportedly telling each other that “this year will be full of difficulties [for their businesses].”


“The special border patrol unit usually conducts its patrols in groups of four or five alongside regular border patrol units. They monitor cliffs, the neck of the rapids or anywhere else out of sight of normal patrols,” another source told Daily NK. “The special patrols are even looking under scrap firewood piles used by local border patrol units.” 

A hidden surveillance post on Sino-North Korea border. / Image: Daily NK

North Koreans see these measures as an state-led attempt to tighten border security. As sanctions against North Korea drag on, the tightening of the border appears aimed at continuing efforts to control the flow of information and money into and out of the country. 

The border region of Ryanggang Province, which abuts Mount Paektu, is currently experiencing extremely cold weather, with temperatures in the city of Hyesan dropping to 21.6 degrees Celsius below zero.

“Normally, when border patrol units get cold at night they take turns warming themselves in nearby houses. The authorities have strictly forbidden the special patrols from doing this in the new year,” a source said.

*Translated by Violet Kim

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Kang Mi Jin
Kang Mi Jin is a North Korean defector turned journalist who fled North Korea in 2009. She has a degree in economics and writes largely on marketization and economy-related issues for Daily NK. Questions about her articles can be directed to