North Korea ordered the military into “No. 1 combat posture” immediately after a defector to the South re-defected back to the North on Jan. 1. North Korea apparently took the individual into custody the day of his re-defection and is currently questioning him.

A Daily NK source in North Korea said last Thursday that a sentry on duty at a guard post on the front line first spotted somebody coming from the South late in the night of Jan. 1. The headquarters of the First Corps then reported the matter to the Supreme Command using the wireless system reserved for direct communication with the Supreme Commander, i.e., North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Found only at corps and division-level headquarters, the direct wireless system to Kim’s office usually transmits only in one direction — that is, top down. However, in an emergency, lower-level units can use it first to report what is happening.

That the headquarters of the First Corps got on the direct line to Kim to report the defection demonstrates how seriously North Korea dealt with the incident.

The source said that immediately after the incident was reported, the Operations Bureau of the General Staff Department — acting under instructions from the Supreme Command — ordered the division manning the region where the defection occurred to go into No. 1 combat posture.

Accordingly, the division in question distributed live 30 rounds of live ammunition to each soldier. The unit maintained its posture for 24 hours, its personnel fitted out for combat at all times.

The source said the authorities fully mobilized the provincial emergency quarantine headquarters to lock down the guard post that discovered the defector and the nearby residential district for soldiers. However, the civilian residential district was not locked down because soldiers immediately caught the defector when he crossed the border.

Slogans on display at the Wonsan-Kalma Coastal Tourist Zone construction site in Gangwon Province. / Image: Daily NK

The double defector was briefly confined in a guardhouse run by the First Corps’ security division. Now he is apparently quarantined at a provincial Ministry of State Security facility in Wonsan.

The source says an investigation team from the Ministry of State Security’s headquarters in Pyongyang has been sent to Wonsan, where they are questioning the defector. The ministry plans to watch the individual for half a month, and if the authorities feel that he poses little quarantine risk, they will move him to South Pyongan Province for additional interrogation.

Worth noting is how North Korea has kept the incident under wraps, dealing with it secretly, in contrast to the July 2020 incident when a re-defector turned up in the city of Kaesong.

In fact, when that case happened, the KCNA and other official North Korean media reported of an “emergency” after a “fugitive to the South” suspected of being infected with COVID-19 “illegally crossed the demarcation line” into the city Kaesong three years after he defected.

The media also reported that Kim convened an emergency expanded meeting of the Central Committee’s politburo, where the leadership ordered Kaesong be put under complete lockdown.

However, North Korea has neither reported about the latest defection, nor responded to notifications sent by South Korea’s military.

The source explained that the authorities are trying to keep mouths shut as only the unit based where the defection took place, the soldiers’ village, Ministry of State Security officials, and people around them know what happened. That being said, rumors have begun to appear about the defection in the China-North Korea border region. 

He added that cadres were saying that the authorities were dealing with the incident quietly to avoid rocking the boat from the very start of an important year marking the 110th birthday of late North Korean founder Kim Il Sung and the 80th birthday of late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, not to mention current North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s birthday on Jan. 8.

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