Two North Korean border guards were arrested after smuggling goods over the Sino-North Korean border in Ryanggang Province on Feb. 8, Daily NK has learned.
The incident occurred about 10 days after North Korea shut down its border with China at the end of January and is the first reported smuggling-related arrested to occur on the border since the border closure.
“The two soldiers were arrested after receiving goods to sell [in the market] at around midnight,” a Daily NK source in Ryanggang Province reported on Feb. 12.
The two border guards were returning from the point where they received the goods from China when they were arrested by soldiers patrolling the border.
“The soldiers will face harsh punishment because they were caught attempting to smuggle in goods so soon after the border was ordered closed,” the source speculated.
The 25th Brigade, which manages security on the Sino-North Korean border in Ryanggang Province, was reportedly concerned that the two men had contracted the coronavirus while receiving the goods from a Chinese trader. The unit’s leadership ordered that the soldiers be placed in solitary confinement to prevent the potential spread of the virus.
“The soldiers made contact with a Chinese trader and had the Chinese goods in their possession when they were caught. They were immediately put into solitary confinement,” the source said, adding, “They will face an interrogation when results of a medical test [for COVID-19] are complete.”
The soldiers reportedly claimed that they didn’t receive the goods directly from a Chinese trader; instead, they said that the goods were “thrown over” the border. They also claimed that the goods were wrapped in cloth, ostensibly to prevent the spread of an infection.
The goods included instant coffee sticks and shoes typically worn by Chinese police officers, Daily NK sources said.
“One of the soldiers was going to be discharged this year. The government has failed to catch large-scale smugglers of goods and instead have just rounded up powerless soldiers,” one source told Daily NK.
“The incident has forced doctors and disease control officials from the [Ryanggang] provincial hospital to visit the headquarters of the 25th Brigade every day,” he added.
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