North Korean border guards have beaten three young North Korean men to death for trying to cross the Tumen River.
“In early July, three young residents were beaten to death by a group of border guards at Hasambong-li, Onsong County, North Hamgyong Province,” a source familiar with North Korean affairs in China reported to Daily NK on September 17.
According to the source, the shocking incident was witnessed by a Chinese fisherman living in Kaishantun, Longjing City, in Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, who conveyed the news.
The deceased young men had reportedly tried to defect by disguising themselves as fishermen in a desolate place at dawn, but were soon discovered by the North Korean border guards.
The Chinese fisherman who witnessed the scene told the source that the soldiers ruthlessly bashed the heads and bodies of the young men with the butts of their guns and rocks at the riverside.
“The scene was so brutal that he said he still has nightmares. After the bashing ended, the soldiers dropped the lifeless bodies into the river. One of the young men regained consciousness and floundered for some time before disappearing under the water,” the source explained.
A separate source in China with knowledge of this incident said, “The fisherman was so traumatized by the incident that he has insomnia. He kept quiet about the incident for some time because he was afraid it may get him into trouble.”
After the news spread, local Chinese people have been reluctant to approach the Tumen River and have become more vocal in their criticisms of North Korea.
The ruthless punishment exacted on defectors was said to be influenced by Kim Jong Un’s instructions. The regime believes that defections have a negative effect on the stability of the system, and there are orders for agents to “shoot anyone who crosses the river on site.”
Border guard soldiers who shoot or kill residents attempting to defect are often rewarded rather than punished.
A North Korean defector who served in the military near the border area said, “I heard that, unlike in the past when only those resisting arrest were shot, these days, they are brutally killing the defectors without warning. After learning that the Wonsu (Kim Jong Un) who has been promoting his image as ‘people loving leader’ actually issued those orders himself, the residents were greatly shocked.”
The North Korean border guards would usually arrest people who try to cross the river and transfer them to a local military base or regional Ministry of State Security office in order to accumulate achievements. Therefore, some question the reason for such harsh violence and disposal of the bodies. In regards to this, the defector noted that the murders may have been unintentional considering it occurred at dawn, and the soldiers probably disposed of the bodies in the water to conceal the incident, believing that no one was watching.