Sakju County, in North Korea’s North Pyongan Province, was locked down on Feb. 2, Daily NK has learned.

A source in the province told Daily NK earlier today that the county was locked down at 11 PM on Feb. 2. The lockdown will last one month, with no one allowed to leave their homes, he added.

The source said that the lockdown order stems from an incident involving a man in his mid-20s who slipped into the county undetected on Feb. 28.

The man had disappeared around three years ago and was considered a “missing person” by the authorities. He was arrested by the border patrol while heading to Sakju County after crossing the Yalu River in late February.

The incident was reported to the central authorities and Ministry of State Security officials immediately headed to Sakju County to investigate following an order from Kim Jong Il that directed the security agency to deal with the case.

The arrested individual reportedly claimed he had lived in China over the past three years, and he had several Chinese RMB bills on him when he was arrested. North Korean authorities, however, believe that the man may have been living in South Korea and are interrogating him in a security ministry detention center.

Sakju County, North Pyongan Province smuggler executed
Sakju County, North Pyongan Province. / Image: Daily NK

According to the source, during his interrogation, the man claimed to have left for China three years ago to pay off his parents’ debts, earning RMB 50 (around USD 7) a day while doing odd jobs here and there in a mountainous area of China. The man said he had returned to North Korea because he suddenly became sick and, despite spending a lot of money on medicine, his health did not improve.

“The security ministry has contacted China’s public security agency to request help in determining whether the man actually lived in China,” the source added.

The lockdown order prohibits Saju County residents from going to work or conducting any other travel. Workers at a wind power facility near the Sino-North Korean border – operated jointly by China and North Korea – are commuting to work from their dormitory because the facility must continue generating power.

The man arrested near the border, meanwhile, is showing potential symptoms of COVID-19, including a fever and coughing. North Korean authorities have isolated all border patrol officials who came into contact with him, according to the source.

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Ha Yoon Ah is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about her articles to