North Korean border patrol units use jet skis to intercept smuggling operations


North Korean smuggler meets Chinese counterpart in Dandong in April 2018. Image: Daily NK

According to sources in North Pyongan Province, some border patrol units have started using jet skis to monitor and interdict smuggling operations on the open water.

The introduction of the vehicles has led to a spate of arrests. “Recently a popular spot for smuggling operations around Hwanggumpyong Island was patrolled by border guards on jet skis. They arrested some North Korean smugglers on the spot, confiscated their goods, and sent the Chinese smugglers back home,” a source in North Pyongan Province told Daily NK.

“The boats we (Chinese and North Korean smugglers) use aren’t fast enough, so they couldn’t get away. They were smuggling animal hides and marine products, so it wasn’t as big a deal as it could have been, like trading gold or something like that.”

The tightening of border controls and smuggling crackdowns by the Chinese authorities is also thought to be playing a role, the source said. This follows developments reported in October of coordination between the two countries to patrol their shared border.

The authorities are also looking to monopolize certain items in the market, with state-sanctioned smuggling having risen in early 2018.

The authorities have also confiscated boats from those running smuggling logistics and demanded bribes of several thousand dollars to escape punishment, according to a separate source in North Pyongan Province familiar with the situation.

“Smugglers were for some time handing over thousands of 25-30 kg bags of goods per day, but are now laying low because of these crackdowns,” he noted.