North Korean authorities recently ordered that ships travelling near the Sino-North Korean border must have a security official on board as part of efforts to crack down on smuggling, Daily NK has learned.  

“The order concerns ships travelling along the Yalu River and states that they must have a Ministry of State Security [MSS] agent on board,” a source in China told Daily NK on June 25. “The order applies to all ships, regardless of whether they are container ships or fishing boats, and irrespective of their affiliation or purpose.” 

Earlier this month, the MSS announced that anyone caught engaging in criminal activity near the border, including smuggling and attempting to defect, will be subject to strong punishments rather than rehabilitative measures, such as time at a forced labor camp. 

The announcement of several measures pertaining to illegal activity near the border in the space of a month demonstrates how sensitive North Korean authorities are to smuggling and information leaks in the area. 

BREAKING CORRUPTION

The order is also aimed at preventing corruption between local security officials and smugglers, according to the source. 

Since it is common for smugglers to bribe local security officials, the MSS will reportedly send agents from the central government rather than local officers to work on the ships. 

Smugglers say that the new order will only lead to more expensive bribes. 

“You can earn up to RMB 10,000 [around USD 1,412] a day taking goods across the Yalu River,” the source said. “Because there’s so much money to be made, the measures won’t stop the smuggling. Smugglers will just have to pay higher bribes to the security officials.” 

It takes bribes of around RMB 5,000 to RMB 7,000 [USD 700 to USD 1,000] to pay off security officials, the source said, adding, “Smugglers are complaining that instead of reducing smuggling, [the new measures] will simply push up the cost of doing business.”

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

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Jang Seul Gi is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about her articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.