North Korea has added at least five new guard posts in Hyesan as part of broader efforts to crackdown on smuggling and the “leakage” of information over the Sino-North Korean border, Daily NK has learned.
“Information tends to circulate through smuggling, so stamping this out is the main goal [of the authorities],” a source in Ryanggang Province told Daily NK on July 7.
According to the source, rising hostility toward South Korea over defector-activists sending leaflets over the inter-Korean border last month has led to tighter control over the Sino-North Korean border. The five new guard posts in Hyesan have brought the city’s total number of guard posts to 28.
The source also said that the border guard has been in a high state of alert since June 20, which means they are prohibited from taking leave and officers are making the rounds at each guard post.
Despite this atmosphere of increased tension, a border guard in Hyesan was caught and punished in late June for conspiring with a smuggler to transfer two boxes (600 packs) of cigarettes to a Chinese national.
The guard was indicted under military law and sentenced to three years at a forced labor camp. His immediate superiors were also held responsible and discharged from the military.
Investigators on the case discovered, moreover, that soldiers at another border guard post were involved in a gold smuggling operation. A smuggler wanting to move 10 kilograms of gold into China reportedly bribed the guards to get him across the border safely.
The soldiers are currently all being investigated and the gold trader was arrested and had his earnings confiscated, the source said, further speculating that they all faced serious punishment under military law.
“A recent order said that anyone found guilty of smuggling will be tried under military law,” the source said, adding, “Some people think, however, that the threat of punishment is not likely to deter those determined to smuggle.”
Daily NK has published multiple reports this past month about how the authorities are cracking down on smuggling activities. Ministry of State Security officials were also recently ordered to hand out “heavy punishments” to anyone caught committing illegal acts near the border, including smuggling.
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