Two soldiers from North Korea’s border patrol were arrested for stealing food from a house in China earlier this month.
“Two border guards in the Chongsu Workers’ District in Sakju County (North Pyongan Province) stole food from a house in Dandong, Liaoning Province,” said a Daily NK source in China. “Several locals alerted to their crime caught them in the act and turned them over to local authorities.”
The source further noted that the low-ranking soldiers were in their early 20s and wearing military uniforms but had no weapons. “The Chinese authorities believe that the soldiers crossed the border to find food,” the source said.
Members of North Korea’s border patrol are generally considered to be well-fed because they can receive bribes for turning a blind eye to defections and smuggling activities.
Recently, however, intensifying international sanctions have led to a fall in smuggling in the area and the border guards have been faced with declining sources of income. Low-ranking members of the border patrol are finding life more difficult than their superiors, the source added.
“I’ve never heard of low-ranking soldiers crossing over into China from Sinuiju or Sakju because they’re hungry,” said the source. “The Chinese authorities believe, however, that the soldiers crossed into Chinese territory for that reason. The droughts last year and this year are the reason for the lack of food.”
The arrested soldiers were returned to North Korea after an investigation. There have been no reports on whether they faced punishment in North Korea.
Another Daily NK source said that the North Korean authorities are spreading “false rumors” about what actually happened.
“There’s a rumor that the soldiers killed a Chinese person to steal their money,” said the source, who is based in North Pyongan Province. “The rumor says that Chinese people are buying ‘valuable’ things from North Korea at rock-bottom prices and that the soldiers shot a Chinese person in revenge for this.”
He added that the North Korean authorities may have spread the rumor because they were concerned that if it was learned that the soldiers committed the crime out of hunger, it would affect morale in the military.