N. Korea shuts down Sinuiju Port amid coronavirus fears

Smuggling in the area around Sinuiju has also come to a halt as smugglers fear infection from Chinese traders

North Korean authorities have suspended the entry and exit of freight ships at Sinuiju Port due to fears over the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus, Daily NK has learned.

Daily NK sources reported that with the port’s shutdown, maritime transportation of goods near the Sino-North Korean border have completely come to a halt.

“All the harbors at Sinuiju Port, which were open until at least Jan. 24, have been completely shut down as of Jan. 25,” a North Pyongan Province source told Daily NK on Friday.

“Authorities are prohibiting the movement of both personnel and goods to stop the coronavirus from entering the country,” he added.

Daily NK sources explained that ships leaving for sea must normally receive a confirmation document and undergo a series of inspections at port customs, but all the customs offices are currently closed and all the boats are docked.

Sinuiju Port, which sits opposite the Chinese city of Dandong in Liaoning Province, is a hub for smuggling as well as official trade with China. 

NO MORE SMUGGLING

Government ships charged with clamping down on smuggling on the Yalu River have also halted operations, Daily NK sources reported. 

“Since all the boats are docked, all the anti-smuggling boats working along the Yalu River have anchored as well,” one source said. “The military unit overseeing the boats have given orders that ‘nobody is to come into contact with Chinese people.’”

Smuggling along the Yalu River also appears to have largely stopped, according to Daily NK sources. 

”The current atmosphere is such that if anyone were to say they were going out to smuggle, they would be branded a traitor,” one source said.

With North Korea constantly emphasizing the danger posed by the Wuhan coronavirus through state media along with intensifying its border security, smugglers are on their toes, Daily NK sources said.

Not only is there a fear of infection, but smugglers are also worried that being caught smuggling while the government is so intensely guarding the border might lead to much harsher punishment than usual.  

“Smugglers are losing money but are also fearful of [getting infected by] the virus,” one source told Daily NK. “Because TV broadcasts keep saying how we need to stop the virus in its tracks, people are getting nervous.”

“With the closure of the harbors, there are hardly any people out by Sinuiju Port or the Yalu River,” added the source. “There is nothing but quiet desolation.”

Daily NK sources also confirmed that North Korean authorities have banned any foreign crew members from coming ashore at Nampo Port [link to Korean article], which is located in the estuary of the Taedong River.

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

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Mun Dong Hui is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about his articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.