As part of efforts to strengthen the country’s border blockade ahead of the upcoming Eighth Party Congress, North Korean authorities have ordered some border guard units to reduce their time on duty to just 20 minutes, Daily NK has learned. 

A source in North Hamgyong Province told Daily NK on Monday that the government recently took measures to “increase border patrol personnel along the [Sino-North Korean] border” and “rotate out border guards after just 20 minutes on duty.” According to the source, this move is aimed at “aggressively stopping the infectious disease [COVID-19]” from entering the country before the Eighth Party Congress.

The source said that after a series of incidents where North Koreans either defected or reentered the country, North Korean authorities moved to adjust the time border guards were on duty to eliminate such incidents from occurring ahead of the Eighth Party Congress.

In fact, as conditions grow worse for residents of border areas such as Hoeryong, Musan and Onsong, an increasing number of North Koreans are secretly crossing the border to China to make money. The source said that the North Korean authorities believe crossing the border would be impossible without the mediation or intervention of the border patrol.

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A sentry post on the Sino-North Korean border in Sakju County, North Pyongan Province. / Image: Daily NK

“[The authorities] have set out to solve the problem by reducing their time on duty and more frequently rotating out the guards so that border patrol troops cannot engage in other activities while on duty,” the source said. 

According to the source, the guards’ time on duty has been shortened to 15 to 20 minutes so that on-duty border patrol troops can monitor one another and are unable to engage in illicit activity, such as taking part in or abetting defections or reentries. Only 15 minutes are spent on duty, while transferring duties between shifts takes about five minutes.

This is very little time for defectors to put their plans into motion or for locals to engage in smuggling or other illegal activities, the source said.

However, the source said the reduction in duty hours could also protect on-duty personnel from frostbite to their hands, feet and other exposed parts of the body.

According to the source, North Korean authorities also ordered that “monitoring devices in surveillance districts along the border be replaced” and that equipment installed in places along the border “be inspected to ensure they are working properly.” These efforts are also connected with the upcoming Eighth Party Congress, he said.

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Jong So Yong is one of Daily NK's freelance reporters. Questions about her articles can be directed to