North Korea’s Ministry of Social Security recently ordered that locals living in the Sino-North Korean border region refrain from “engaging in actions that disrupt” the country’s efforts to close the border, Daily NK has learned. 

“From Aug. 25, the Ministry of Social Security’s order, made up of five provisions, was posted on the walls of public agencies, train stations and other places,” a source in Yanggang Province told Daily NK on Friday. “The order designated areas within one to two kilometers of the border ‘strict [security] zones’ and stated that any person or animal that enters the zones without authorization will be shot at unconditionally.” 

According to the source, the agency claims that some citizens have been coming and going as they pleased near the border and even illegally crossing it, creating a space that could enable transmission of COVID-19. “The order highlighted the importance of maintaining and strengthening the national emergency posture in light of the fact that COVID-19 spreads via the air and [on the surface of] goods,” the source said, on condition of anonymity. 

A photograph obtained by Daily NK shows the different announcements and directives in the order: 1) the establishment of the strict security zones within one to two kilometers of the border; 2) a ban on people or vehicles traveling on roads or railways related to blockades at the border; 3) a warning that any animal or person entering the zone without authorization or approaching blockades on roads or railways will be shot at on sight; and, 4) a warning that the authorities will defend the safety of the country and of its citizens “to the death” by ensuring that people strictly adhere to proper behavior in the border region.

A copy of the order handed down by the Ministry of Social Security recently. / Image: Daily NK

The document announces the establishment of the strict security zone, instructs citizens to refrain from illegally entering the zone, and warns that no people or goods may enter the zone without authorization. The document also notes that anyone with official authorization to enter the area must carry proof, such as an ID card, at all times.

The order stipulates a ban on traveling at night on roads and railways near barbed-wire fencing and other border security-related facilities. The document lists specific times the ban is in effect: 8 PM to 5 AM from May to September, and 6 PM to 7 AM from October to April. The listing of different times for the summer and winter seasons suggests that the agency was mindful of the possibility that the border may be closed for some time due to the pandemic. 

The document also made it clear that anyone breaking rules or disrupting public order near the border will be shot at without warning, as well as any citizens breaching the control lines at the Yalu/Tumen River, entering the tight security zone, or approaching blockades without authorization.

The document also called for organizations, businesses and groups to support the border closure and take thorough disease prevention measures for the sake of the country’s safety and the people’s well-being. It further ordered the ramping up education and control to prevent crime while urging people to keep a close eye out for any actions that undermine public order in the strict security zones, which, it noted, are under the control of the military. 

The fifth and final provision of the order stated that “this decree applies to all organizations, businesses, groups and citizens in all areas of the Republic.” 

According to the source, locals in the Sino-North Korean border region have complained about the latest order out of concern that the border is to remain closed for the foreseeable future. Locals reportedly feel “suffocated” by the swarms of border patrols, soldiers and even party officials from Pyongyang in the area. Some have also complained that the authorities should provide rations rather than just shutting down the border. 

“The price of one cubic meter of firewood, which people need to get through winter, has spiked by 180% since the order was handed down,” the source said, adding, “People believe the price will double again by next week, leaving them feeling as if the ground is falling apart beneath them.”

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