North Korean border security in crisis following desertion of border guard 

North Korea border guard.
North Korea border guard. Image: Kang Dong Wan (Dong-A University professor)

A North Korean border unit has sounded the alarm after one of its guards deserted his post. Although a major search is being conducted for the missing soldier, he has still not been apprehended more than two weeks later, and senior military figures are now fearing punishment from the leadership.

“A border guard deserted his post on August 12 after having trouble getting along with his commander and political guidance officer,” a Ryanggang Province-based source told Daily NK. “The border guard had been told by the two officers to facilitate smuggling operations into China, but failed to receive proper payment for his services. He then decided to desert his post.”

The source said that the border guard had been aggrieved over his treatment for years and that he decided to desert after he saw his superior officers spending cash in a careless manner.

There have been frequent reports of soldiers deserting or defecting from North Korea due to poor treatment by their superior officers.

Daily NK reported in June that a soldier deserted his post fully-armed after receiving a savage beating from a political guidance officer.

The military base the deserted soldier was stationed at quickly mounted a search for him, according to a separate source in Ryanggang Province.

“The political guidance official is leading the search to find the border guard and the base leadership appears intent on finding him no matter what it takes,” he said.

The leadership is confident it can find the guard if he’s still in North Korea, but is also worried the man fled to China, he added.

North Korean military deserters have in the past fled to China and committed acts of robbery, murder, and hostage-taking, and the base’s leadership is worried that history may repeat itself.

Discipline within North Korea’s border guard units, however, has become extremely lax, with officers involved in smuggling and helping others defect into China.

Daily NK reported in May that a smuggling ring run by a political guidance officer at the North Korean Border Patrol’s 25th Brigade was the target of a crackdown, and in June a political guidance officer affiliated with the same brigade helped several North Koreans to defect, only to be turned in by another North Korean officer.

During the Company Political Guidance Officer Rally in March, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un told military leaders to “strengthen the organization and order to make military discipline as sharp as a knife,” but there are still signs of poor discipline in many bases throughout the country.

Mun Dong Hui is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about his articles to