North Korean authorities are heightening their inspections of personnel dispatched overseas, Daily NK has learned. From the second week of December, the authorities have been carrying out tougher inspections in the form of home searches.

Daily NK previously reported that in mid-November, the authorities ordered the North Korean embassy in China to carry out inspections of the heads of trading companies, labor managers, managers of North Korean restaurants, and other personnel in the country. 

Cadres from the embassy and local consulates reportedly inspected individuals’ mobile phones and other personal items during one-on-one interviews.

As most North Koreans working in China use two mobile phones, many reportedly skirted danger by turning over the phone they use least.

According to a Daily NK source in China on Monday, this time around, officials from the Ministry of State Security are leading the inspections, and rather than visiting homes on a pre-arranged date, they are launching surprise raids.

The source said the inspectors are focusing their searches on determining whether occupants have met or communicated with South Koreans or possess South Korean literature or video materials.

They are also looking to see if homes have books from other countries or Bibles, and are asking if occupants have come into contact with such things.

female defectors
Hundreds of North Korean women were seen carrying bags through them northeast Chinese city of Helong. / Image: Daily NK

It is not clear exactly why North Korean authorities are carrying out sweeping inspections of personnel working in China, but it appears to be connected with North Korea’s recent heightened efforts to clamp down on the entry of outside information and cultural materials such as TV programs and films.

A Dec. 4 meeting of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly adopted a new law against “reactionary ideology and culture.” The law reportedly designates listening to foreign radio broadcasts and importing and distributing foreign videos, books and Bibles as illegal, subjecting violators to public trials.

The key parts of the law also reportedly focus on stopping South Korean cultural materials and consumer items from entering the country.

Along the same lines, the inspections that have recently been underway in China are believed to be largely aimed at stopping outside information from entering North Korea through North Koreans working overseas, as well as at stopping internal information from leaking to the outside world.

How severely violators caught in the inspections are punished is unknown. However, speculation has emerged that punishments will not stop at mere warnings or firings.

“People caught in the inspections who have engaged in activities connected with that place [South Korea] will face more than dismissals,” said the source. “We don’t know what will happen to them when they return to the Motherland [North Korea].”

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