A Chinese man was shot and killed by a North Korean border guard while engaged in a smuggling operation across the Yalu River in late May, Daily NK has learned.

According to multiple sources, the man was moving toward the North Korean border to hand over goods to a North Korean smuggler, but was shot after North Korean border guards warned him several times to stop.

Chinese authorities reacted swiftly to the incident. The day after the incident occurred, Chinese authorities redistributed a document written by the North Koreans requesting those living in the border regions to take precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The document reportedly included directives to Chinese nationals that they should avoid littering or leaving the carcasses of animals on the North Korean side of the river, refrain from making contact with North Koreans, and report any illegal border crossers. The document also reportedly stated that North Korean border guards are permitted to shoot anyone who fails to heed their warnings.

According to a Daily NK source in China, “The Chinese emphasized that the directives in the document were applicable to both humans and animals and that they remain in force.” He added that Chinese authorities said at the time that people should refrain from taking pictures at the border.

For around three days after the incident, Chinese border guards conducted armed patrols in the area and reviewed CCTV footage. “There was usually only one border patrol vehicle seen driving in the area, but [right after the incident] guards were walking around fully armed, which raised tensions [in the area],” the source said.

Chinese authorities reportedly sent RMB 20,000 (around USD 2,858) to the family of the man who was killed along with a small amount of unspecified “goods.” Chinese officials made clear that such compensation from the state would “never be made again.”

According to the source, North Korea’s Ministry of State Security apologized to the Chinese about the incident by phone, promising that North Korea would pay the Chinese 10 times the amount of the compensation made to the dead man in “minerals,” not cash.

Daily NK was unable to confirm whether this payment was ever made.

Meanwhile, North Korean officials congratulated the border guard who shot the Chinese man with an “Ministry of State Security Commendation” and even gave him 15 days leave. “The soldier won’t be able to take his leave until this autumn because of disease control efforts along the border,” the source added.

The incident is not the first time North Korean border guards have shot and killed Chinese citizens engaged in smuggling across the border. Daily NK’s source said that there have been multiple incidents involving Chinese traders who were shot in “open water [on boats]” for “failing to have made payments [for smuggled goods] on time.”

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

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Sang Yong Lee is editor-in-chief of Daily NK and previously spent a number of years working as one of the publication’s foreign correspondents in China. He can be reached at dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.