Border guard troops reportedly shot to death a local resident near the Sino-North Korean border in Sinuiju, North Pyongan Province, earlier this month after he inadvertently entered the “buffer zone” while chasing his goat.

With North Korea tightly sealing the border to prevent the entry of COVID-19, the Ministry of Social Security had issued a proclamation ordering residents along the northern frontier not to hinder operations to close the border.

In the proclamation, North Korea established a “buffer zone” one-to-two kilometers from the border lockdown line. The country maintains a policy to unconditionally fire on people or animals that enter the zone in a disorganized way or approach border blockages related to roads or railways.

A source in North Pyongan Province told Daily NK last Wednesday that in early March, a goat that was being raised by a local entered the buffer zone. Unaware of where he was, the man went into the zone to catch his goat but was “ridiculously” killed when he was shot by a border guard.

According to the source, the border guard shot the man immediately after discovering him in the buffer zone. But the guard did not shoot the goat, which he took away for himself. 

The incident has frightened and disquieted local residents, who are also raising their voices to condemn the “preposterous” response of the border guard.

Among themselves, locals reportedly complain that “human life is worth less than that of a goat” and that “the army that should protect the people is instead shooting the people to death.” They also wonder why troops would shoot the man but take the goat, speculating they did so to eat it.

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Barbed wire fences on the Sino-North Korean border. / Image: Daily NK

The source said there had been three previous killings of locals who entered the buffer zone since January. “In those three cases, too, they didn’t enter the buffer zone to defect or smuggle, but did so unknowingly and were shot to death,” he added. 

Because of this, local residents cannot even think about approaching the border for fear that woe will befall them, said the source.

News continues to arrive of members of the border guard firing on residents who have approached the border.

In early February, in Chasong County, Chagang Province, a soldier and his girlfriend were shot and killed by members of the border guard when they were spotted trying to secretly cross the river. And at the end of last year, an unidentified individual was shot to death by another member of the border guard as he was trying to enter North Korea from the Chinese side near Sinpa County, Yanggang Province.

Quoting sources, Daily NK reported last month that there were five cases of defections and smuggling along the border in North Pyongan Province during the period of the Eighth Party Congress (Jan. 5-12). In those incidents, locals who participated in the defections or smuggling were injured or killed when they were shot by border guards.  

With border guards shooting people innocent of approaching the border with the intention to defect or smuggle, people in the region have reportedly become more intimidated about going near the border. 

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