North Korean authorities have reportedly split the construction process of concrete barriers and high-voltage wires being built along the Sino-North Korean border into two phases. A source in North Korea says that the authorities will proceed with the two-pronged construction plan in three out of four border provinces (North Pyongan Province, Yanggang Province, and North Hamgyong Province). Chagang Province is reportedly the only border province exempted from the two-phased plan.

“The installation of barriers and high-voltage wires along the Chagang Province border is about 40% complete,” a source in North Korea told Daily NK on May 13. “Unlike in other border provinces, the authorities have given an order that the border barrier in Chagang Province must be constructed all at once without dividing the process into stages.”

According to the source, North Korean authorities reportedly plan to simultaneously complete the installation of barriers and high-voltage wires in Chagang Province, which has a relative abundance of uninhabited land. Construction troops will simultaneously erect barriers in Wiwon County, Chasong County, and Manpo. North Korean authorities have invested a massive amount of human resources into the project: around 5,000 construction troops and personnel from mechanized units are currently working on building border barriers. 

However, the authorities have reportedly ordered that the construction processes in North Hamgyong Province, Yanggang Province, and North Pyongan Province take place in two sequential stages.

“All the [construction] materials needed for the project are already at the sites. The first stage of construction is already underway in areas like Ryongchon [County] and Uiju [County], where there are a lot of cliffs and uninhabited areas that make the areas difficult to patrol,” the source said in reference to the progress of construction in South Pyongan Province. “About 3,000 [construction workers] came into these areas, but progress has been slower than in Chagang Province because [the workers] had to construct temporary barracks while putting up the barriers and high-voltage wires. [Construction] is about 20% finished in these areas.”

fencing
North Korean soldiers seen constructing fences along the border last year. / Image: Daily NK

According to the source, Ryongchon County and Uiju County border barriers will go up during the first phase. In contrast, Sinuiju, Sakju, and other border areas will see barriers go up during the second phase. The source said that construction workers might build temporary barracks depending on the time needed to complete construction in each area.

“The river near Sinuiju is wide, so it’s difficult to cross the river or smuggle without [access to] proper transportation like ships,” the source said, explaining why Sinuiju had been slated into the second phase of construction.

Meanwhile, North Korean authorities have sent down an order designating the four counties of Kimhyongjik, Kimjongsuk, Samsu, and Taehongdan as “phase one” construction sites. Approximately 3,000 construction soldiers have been deployed to the sites.

“Huchang, Sinpa, Samsu, and Taehongdan counties have more uninhabited areas than other border regions in Yanggang Province,” the source said. “[Construction workers] have started building the barriers and high-voltage wires using the materials they currently have available, but construction is expected to switch into full swing by the end of this month when all the materials needed for the project arrive [at the sites].”

Meanwhile, the authorities have categorized the counties of Hyesan, Pochon, and Samjiyon as “phase two” construction sites. These counties are reportedly on a lower priority level because there are already many border guards and inland soldiers deployed to those areas. The authorities concluded that the existing personnel would be sufficient to enforce the order blockade to stop defections and other illegal behaviors.

Construction of barriers and high-voltage wires in the first phase North Hamgyong Province construction sites of Musan, Onsung, and Hoeryong counties will reportedly begin on May 15. According to the source, approximately 1,000 construction troops are already stationed in North Hamgyong Province’s border region. However, an additional 3,000 to 4,000 personnel will likely be deployed to the area in the near future because more defections occur in North Hamgyong Province than in any other province.

The Seventh Corps and stormtroopers from the Eleventh Corps are rumored to have plans to withdraw from the border region this October following the establishment of barriers and high-voltage wires.

“We need to wait and see when the barriers and high-voltage wires will be complete to know for sure, but there are rumors that the stormtroopers and Seventh Corps personnel will withdraw in October,” the source said.

Meanwhile, North Korean authorities are reportedly planning to deploy personnel conscripted this spring into the Seventh General Bureau, the Eighth General Bureau, and the military’s engineering corps to construction sites along the border. The authorities reportedly plan to send the newly-drafted soldiers to the border as soon as they finish their 10-week-long basic training.

“Newly drafted soldiers normally receive the rank of private one year after they take the soldier’s oath,” the source said. “However, rumors say that the authorities are considering reducing the time soldiers wait to become privates to just six months. If they give the new soldiers a military patch and send them to the border, the people there might give them strange looks. So, they’re planning on giving the new inductees to the Seventh General Bureau, the Eighth General Bureau, and the military’s engineering corps their promotions a little early.”

*Translated by S & J

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