Since the National Security Agency (NSA) took over border security from the Ministry of People’s Armed Forces last month, measures taken against the families of defectors have been stepped up, Daily NK has learned. This even includes the kind of midnight arrests and disappearances that used to characterize the way political criminals and their families were taken away to prison camps.
Finding that people are disappearing overnight is causing a lot of nervousness for others living in areas adjoining the border, according to a Daily NK source from North Hamkyung Province.
“Right now the atmosphere along the border has gotten pretty brutal,” the source told Daily NK yesterday. “Cases are happening where families of defectors or people who have ever been found making international phone calls just disappear without a trace.”
“Last week in Hoiryeong, three families categorized as ‘household of a defector’ by the NSA were dragged off somewhere one night,” the source said. “And a few weeks ago a foreign currency earner who had called China was dragged off by the NSA and hasn’t been heard from since.
Mostly in the past, if a person were caught making an international call by the NSA or signal detection team in the border area, he or she could avoid serious censure as long as 300,000 to 1,000,000 won in fines was paid. Failing that, punishment usually only meant time in prison. If a defector were arrested, he or she could expect a public trial during which a fine or spell in detention would be handed down
However, the new measures are characteristic of the NSA, which has always focused on instilling fear in the target population.
The source said, “People are feeling really anxious, thinking that they can’t even remonstrate now or risk being taken away one day. Whole defector families can’t even sleep when the sound of an engine comes in the night.”