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FILE PHOTO: A sentry post on the Sino-North Korean border in Sakju County, North Pyongan Province. (Daily NK)

North Korean border patrol forces shot dead two individuals who were trying to defect cross the China-North Korea border in early June, Daily NK has learned. 

A source in North Hamgyong Province told Daily NK on Wednesday that a couple in their 20s were shot dead by the border patrol as they tried to cross the river into China from Hoeryong in the early morning hours of June 3.

“Their bodies were left where they fell for 10 days, ostensibly to prevent COVID-19 infections,” he said. “Only recently were the bodies processed, and we came to know of the incident.”

According to the source, North Korea began intensifying its controls and crackdowns along the China-North Korea border to previously unseen levels from early June. Ahead of the Fifth Enlarged Plenary Meeting of the Eighth Central Committee, the authorities reportedly issued a special order to border security units to bolster their patrols, which had grown lax amid the protracted COVID-19 pandemic.

The border patrol’s 27th Regiment, stationed in North Hamgyong Province, responded to the order by going into crisis mode, fully mobilizing all personnel to patrol the border.

According to the source, residents of North Hamgyong Province’s border region have so little contact with one another due to COVID-19-related controls and lockdowns that nobody would know if their neighbors dropped dead. Among other things, locals are banned from approaching the border and going out at night.

The source said the young couple “lost their lives when the border patrol caught them trying to cross the river on Dano [a traditional holiday that falls on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month].

“People interact less because of the protracted lockdown, so locals belatedly learned about this incident,” he continued. 

“Rumors are going around not only in Hoeryong, but also Musan County and Onsong County that the border patrol shot dead people who entered the border area,” he further reported, adding, “We don’t know the exact reason why because people don’t interact much due to the lockdowns, but rumors are going around everywhere that people were shot.”

Meanwhile, the North Korean border patrol is reportedly still under orders to shoot dead anyone or anything approaching the border. Given that people will continue to defect across the border, deaths at the hands of the border patrol look set to continue, the source said.

Translated by David Black. Edited by Robert Lauler.

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Kim Chae Hwan is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. He can be contacted at