Portion of barbed-wire fence dismantled in Ryanggang Province

Satellite imagery of Kanggu-dong, Hyesan City (south of Amnok River), located in Ryanggang Province. Image: Google Earth

Barbed-wire fencing traversing parts of Hyesan City bordering the Amnok River are being dismantled in a bid to improve its appearance to outside observers, report sources in the region.

“In Hyesan, the barbed-wire fences are being dismantled and it’s rumored to be connected to Kim Jong Un’s site visits to Ryanggang Province last month,” a source in Ryanggang Province said on August 17.

“It’s said that Kim Jong Un ordered the destruction of the barbed-wire fences to avoid potential human rights criticisms that could arise from foreigners seeing them in the border areas.”

The source added that he has personally seen them being removed in Kanggu-dong (Hyesan City).

The designated area in Hyesan, a city that lies directly across the river from Changbai, China, covers less than 50 meters.

A separate source in Ryanggang Province who corroborated the removal of the barbed wire in this particular area said that the development has been accompanied by increased surveillance by patrol officers stationed in the area.

“Now that those barbed-wire fences are coming down, the border guards have to be extra vigilant, poised to react quickly to any would-be border crossers or other illicit activities. Previously, the guards in that area were a little lax because they relied on the barriers.”

For residents, however, the development appears to be of little significance.

“With one word, the Supreme Leader (Kim Jong Un) can eliminate what once was and vice versa,” the additional source said.

“Fences or not, people know what the border means.”