North Korean arrest team sent to China to capture high-level defector

Patrol car in Dandong, China
Patrol car in Dandong, China. Image: Daily NK

A high-level Ministry of State Security (MSS) official defected with his family in mid-March and the incident has led the North Korean authorities to quick deploy an arrest team to China, Daily NK sources report.

“The MSS official defected in mid-March, heading from Pyongyang into China through Dandong,” a Daily NK source in North Pyongan Province told Daily NK.

“North Korean authorities deployed an arrest team made up of members from the MSS and the Reconnaissance General Bureau, and they are now conducting an operation aimed at the man’s arrest with MSS agents working in China.”

The source further noted that the MSS official’s defection is connected to the defection of three MSS officials located in Shenyang, Liaoning Province, after the US-North Korean summit in Hanoi.

The three MSS officials active in Shenyang reportedly felt they were in a crisis when the secret bank accounts they possessed under [fake] Chinese names appeared to be under surveillance. They defected soon after removing all the money from these accounts, each of which contained “significant amounts of money.”

According to the source, the MSS official who defected from Pyongyang was managing the MSS office in Shenyang. He decided to defect with his family and others after finding out that the three MSS officials had defected, and under the knowledge that he could not avoid responsibility for such a major incident involving his staff. In short, the Shenyang defections led to the defection of a high-ranking member of the MSS in Pyongyang.

A separate source in Pyongyang reported that there are around seven MSS officials who have defected in connection with the Shenyang incident. Given the large number of defections, an arrest team under the control of the MSS was formed in Pyongyang around two weeks ago and was rapidly deployed to Liaoning Province along with agents from the Reconnaissance General Bureau.

“The Reconnaissance General Bureau agents were ordered ‘not to return’ until the defectors are caught and that the agents should ‘kill them if they can’t be caught,'” he said.

Both sources noted that there is no information on the whereabouts of the MSS official from Pyongyang, and no news of whether he has been arrested.

Citing sources in China, Daily NK previously reported that North Korean authorities are harshly reasserting control over North Korean officials in China to prevent further defections.

The failure of the US-North Korean summit has led to a series of high-level defections that suggests North Korean officials stationed abroad are in a state of unrest.

Ha Yoon Ah is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about her articles to