The border town of Kimhyongjik County (formerly Huchang County), Yanggang Province has recently been placed under lockdown until Dec. 4, Daily NK has learned. 

This comes amid speculation that North Korea may lift or partially relax its closure of the Sino-North Korean border sometime this month.

According to a Daily NK source in North Korea on Tuesday, Kimhyongjik County was put under lockdown on Nov. 19. The move runs counter to expectations that North Korea will relax its toughest quarantine posture, including possibly restarting trade. 

At 9 PM last Thursday, a man in his 40s identified by his family name of Choe returned from China to North Korea at Kimhyongjik County. He was discovered by soldiers of 11th Corps – the so-called “Storm Corps” – who were waiting in ambush.  

Mercilessly beaten by soldiers during his arrest and questioning, Choe testified that he had gone to China to receive money. Soldiers took the RMB 100,000 (about USD 15,600) he had on hand.

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A view of Hyesan, in North Korea’s Yanggang Province. / Image: Daily NK

Soldiers quickly reported the incident that very day. The Central Emergency Anti-Epidemic Headquarters responded to the direct report from the local quarantine authorities in Kimhyongjok County by issuing a lockdown order on the town at 10 AM the next day.

Accordingly, the order suspended travel permits for Kimhyongjik County, banned vehicles and persons from entering the town, and closed markets.

The authorities have ordered the formation of joint enforcement teams composed of local civilian inspection squads and locally based soldiers to patrol the streets day and night. Anyone resisting or violating quarantine rules is to be arrested on the spot and punished with a month or more of forced labor, depending on the severity of their crime.

The source said the lockdown stops people from coming or going, once again locking them up in their homes. He said local residents will bear the entire economic brunt of the measure.

Meanwhile, Choe is awaiting preliminary hearings by the Ministry of State Security, having been ordered last Friday to spend 30 days in isolation. The source said Choe faces intensive questioning once he leaves quarantine.

Kimhyongjik County sits across the Yalu River from northeastern China. Given the geographic particulars, many locals smuggle gold, copper and other rare metals, as well as medicinal herbs.

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