North Korean border guard arrested for human trafficking

Surveillance cameras installed on border guard posts in the Musan area of North Hamgyong Province. Image: Daily NK

A squad leader attached to the border garrison in Onsong County, North Hamgyong Province has been arrested on suspicion of human trafficking.

The suspect in question is in his mid-twenties and is accused of helping women flee North Korea in return for bribes that he was saving for a house purchase. Considering the fact that the North Korean authorities “are aggressively cracking down on human trafficking at the border, he is likely to receive a harsh sentence,” a source in North Hamgyong Province told Daily NK.

“The platoon leader was working with a Chinese broker to help women flee North Korea. One of the women sent to China by this officer was unable to meet the broker and was caught when she tried to re-enter North Korea. She was then questioned, and during the interrogation the squad leader’s name was revealed, prompting an external investigation from the Defense Security Command,” he continued.

“The platoon leader was reportedly working alone, and the news of the capture of the female defector was reported up the chain by the company commander. When news of the human trafficking was announced, the Defense Security Command decided to interrogate the officer.”

The defector was going through tough times and wanted to marry in China for an easier life. She met the broker and crossed the Amnok (Yalu) River together with the squad leader on November 15, according to a separate source in North Hamgyong Province.

After crossing the river, “she then hid herself on a hill and waited for the Chinese broker as instructed, but he never showed, he explained, adding that “unable to endure the cold weather, she was caught trying to cross the river back into North Korea.”

While this may seem like a simple case of aiding a defector, he noted, it is likely that the North Korean judicial system will categorize it as human trafficking due to there being money involved.

The lieutenant, who is engaged, had spent 10 years in the military having achieved the position of platoon commander and “his fiancée’s family was pressuring him to purchase a house before he could marry their daughter,” an additional North Hamgyong Province- based source said.

Defense Security Command in Onsong County is expected to finish the investigation shortly and hold a trial for the accused in December.

The North Korean authorities have recently been intensifying their efforts in cracking down on human trafficking and information leaking over the border. The maximum sentence for someone assigned to the border garrison for human trafficking is the death penalty.

*Translated by Brian Boyle