As North Korea continues to build concrete walls and high-voltage wires along the entire Sino-North Korean border, the country’s leadership recently sent a “storm trooper contingent” to certain border regions in Yanggang Province to accelerate construction efforts.

A source in Yanggang Province told Daily NK on Friday that the authorities sent about 1,800 to 2,000 personnel affiliated with this storm trooper contingent to Huchang (Kimhyongjik County), Sinpa (Kimjongsuk County) and Samsu, Yanggang Province, on June 3.

According to the source, the contingent is largely composed of workers belonging to institutions under Cabinet ministries that handle public works, roads, and architecture. The country’s Ministry of Labor selected and equipped the personnel in the contingent. 

The labor ministry reportedly took recommendations from the Socialist Patriotic Youth League and General Federation of Trade Unions of Korea for the selection of “ideologically sound” technical personnel. This is because the workers are being sent to the border, which means they will have the opportunity to “experience the outside world” for themselves. 

Members of the storm trooper contingent reportedly promised to finish the construction of the wall and high-voltage wires in Kimhyongjik, Kimjongsuk, and Samsu counties within a month. 

The source said that prior to going to the border, members of the storm trooper contingent sent a letter of loyalty to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. In the letter, they vowed never to engage in “laxity or carelessness” in quarantine efforts and swore to complete construction of the “bulletproof wall” within a month to strengthen “anti-epidemic efforts against infectious diseases at the border, a point of concern for the Supreme Leader [Kim].”

fencing
North Korean soldiers seen constructing fences along the border last year. / Image: Daily NK

Calling the concrete wall they are building at the border a “bulletproof wall,” contingent members stressed in their letter that they “would technically and ideologically take the lead in the project to build the bulletproof wall along the entire border,” said the source.

As for the reason behind the contingent’s efforts to accelerate wall and electric fence construction on the border, the source said “anyone” can now go to the border because the authorities have freed up “interprovincial transportation and movement” within Yanggang Province. Accordingly, work must finish quickly in “uninhabited regions where problems are likely to occur, except for well-patrolled places.” 

The northwestern part of Yanggang Province is so difficult to traverse that it does not have any telecommunication base stations. Yet smuggling and other illegal activities continue to flourish there despite the border closure. This is owing to the narrowness of the rivers that form the region’s frontier with China. According to the source, North Korean authorities apparently intend to deal with this issue by ensuring the storm trooper contingent hastens construction efforts in the area.

“[The pledge] to finish construction within a month refers to the work in Huchang and Sinpa. When it finishes work here, the contingent will be sent somewhere else and continue to work with local military construction units,” said the source. “They aim to quickly complete construction [of walls and fences] along the entire border while moving from place to place at one-month intervals.”

The source noted that the contingent was deployed to the border with all the equipment it needed. North Korean authorities have ordered, however, that provincial and county governments take charge of providing food and other supplies. 

Interestingly, North Korea’s leadership has decided not to build walls in areas such as Hyesan, Yanggang Province, or Sinuiju, North Pyongan Province. Both areas overlook relatively large Chinese cities or Korean autonomous regions. 

“Changbai [in Jilin Province] is across from Hyesan, while Dandong [in Liaoning Province] is across from Sinuiju. Foreigners can go to these places to peer into North Korea,” said the source. “If a wall goes up there, people might say so many people want to escape that we are building a wall to stop them. So, [the authorities] aren’t building walls [in these places] to avoid shaming the nation.” 

That being said, North Korea will still build high-voltage wires in Hyesan and Sinuiju as these barriers are far less visible to people in China. The source said that the materials to install the wire fences are already in the two cities; all that is missing is the construction personnel.

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.
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Ha Yoon Ah is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about her articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.