yanggang province
FILE PHOTO: Hyesan, Yanggang Province. (Daily NK)

The families of North Korean defectors are being watched very closely by North Korean state security agents in the rural border region of Yanggang Province, Daily NK has learned. Despite their financial difficulties, some of these families turn down defectors’ remittances out of fear of punishment by the authorities.

“State security agents in rural border areas such as Pochon County, Samsu County and Kim Jong Suk County are keeping defectors’ families under strict surveillance. If a stranger pays a visit, agents immediately raid the house,” a source in Yanggang Province told Daily NK on Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity. 

According to the source, a defector’s family in Samsu County got into hot water when state security agents barged in immediately after a remittance broker handed over some money.

Along with the remittance being confiscated, one family member was reportedly handed over to the county police and sent to a forced labor camp.

As this suggests, defectors’ families in the rural border regions of Yanggang Province face severe hardships because of intense surveillance by state security agents. 

“It’s really tough to make ends meet during the lean period before the barley harvest. Defectors are well aware of that and remit money so their families won’t starve. But families don’t dare to accept the money for fear of facing legal consequences if they’re caught by state security agents who are always lurking nearby,” the source said.

The source said that state security agents keep a close watch not only on defectors’ immediate family members but also on siblings and other relatives living apart. As a result, family members are extremely cautious about accepting money or other items from strangers.

“Defectors’ family members are always anxious about the fact that state security agents could show up at any time. Families turn away money sent to help them survive, which shows just how badly they’ve been harassed by state security agents,” the source said.

Early this month, a remittance broker in Hyesan reportedly visited Kim Jong Suk County to deliver money to a family of defectors, only to be turned away at the door. The defector’s family reportedly did not even let the broker into the house.

“State security agents are sure to raid us as soon as we accept the money, so we’re better off not taking the money,” a family member said.

“The families are afraid of being robbed and interrogated by the state security agents, with some members sent to a forced labor camp and the others responsible for delivering meals. That scenario is a living hell. So they’d rather have peace of mind than accept defectors’ remittances, even if that means fainting from hunger,” the source said.

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