A Daily NK source in China has reported that North Korea has large numbers of agents in Yunnan, a major Chinese province on the route to Southeast Asia for refugees, and Shandong, where a lot of South Koreans reside, to catch North Korean refugees hiding in China.
According to the source, the policy has the tacit support of the Chinese government.
The source reported on the 8th in a telephone interview with The Daily NK, “Both the Defense Security Command of the Chosun People’s Army and the National Security Agency have been mobilized to track down escapees. Their targets are general North Koreans in China, but those heading for South Korea are the top priority.”
According to the source, the agents have been in China since June.
The reason why North Korea dispatched them to distant areas rather than to the border region is that they want to catch those making contact with South Koreans or attempting to leave for South Korea. If true, this is the first time that agents have been sent to the borders of Vietnam, Myanmar and Laos.
The source said, “Refugees in Yanji, Hunchun or other border areas must go to Kunming in Yunnan if they want to leave for South Korea. The North’s intention is to block off the route to the South. Since the Chinese police are cooperating with them, the North Korean agents do not face any serious difficulties conducting their activities.”
Shandong is a useful place for North Koreans heading for South Korea because there are many South Korean companies based there so they can earn money for their defection easily.
The source explained, “In general, catching refugees is the NSA’s work, but in special cases, such as with significant numbers in terms of national security or high level escapees, the Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces is brought in. The participation of the MPAF thus implies that the North Korean authorities are devoting themselves to blocking off attempts to go to South Korea.”
Kim, who came to South Korea in January, 2010, said MPAF participation is a sign that the North is taking the action seriously. “NSA agents often say in interrogations, ‘You are comparatively fine because you got caught by us. If you had gotten caught by the MPAF, it would have been much more dangerous,’” he recalled.
Additionally, the multi-agency approach is a way to limit corruption.