North Korea has completely locked down the cities of Samjiyon and Hyesan in Yanggang Province after a North Korean woman who had been living in China crossed over the Sino-North Korean border into Samjiyon, Daily NK learned from multiple sources yesterday.

“A two-page order by the Central Committee’s Politburo was handed down to provincial and municipal party organizations at 8 AM today [Aug. 27],” a source, who requested anonymity for security reasons, told Daily NK yesterday. “The gist of the order was that Samjiyon and Hyesan will be completely locked down from 12 PM today in response to the incident involving a woman illegally crossing the river [border].”

North Korean authorities had locked down Kaesong in late July after a North Korean defector allegedly infected with COVID-19 crossed over the inter-Korean border.

The recent lock down order specifically mentioned the “illegal border crossing” into Samjiyon and stated that the authorities would maintain a “top class national emergency anti-epidemic system” along with “a strong lock down” until separate orders to lift the lock down have been given.

The order also requested local authorities in the cities to put in place a “special guidance management implementation system” to take care of local citizens, and to make daily reports detailing “internal situations” in the cities to the Central Committee and Central Anti-epidemic Command until the lock downs are lifted.

Samjiyon construction site
A scene from North Korea’s modernization initiative in Samjiyon, Yanggang Province. / Image: Rodong Sinmun

Daily NK reported on Wednesday (in Korean) that a woman in her 20s – reportedly a victim of human traffickers three years ago – crossed the Yalu River on Monday into the Samjiyon area. A Daily NK source in the area had predicted at the time that North Korean authorities may lock down the entirety of Yanggang Province because of the incident.

North Korean authorities, however, seem to have limited their lock down order to Samjiyon and Hyesan, the province’s capital. The source speculated that a broader lock down order would have placed an undue burden on the province’s people, who are already facing difficulties due to international sanctions, COVID-19 and, more recently, monsoon rains.

The lock down order has prohibited all North Koreans living in Samjiyon and Hyesan from traveling, and Daily NK confirmed that the movement of goods has also been halted. Some Yanggang Province residents who are involved in blueberry and pine nut harvesting are reportedly complaining that the lock down order is making it difficult for them to continue their livelihoods and are questioning whether the order is aimed at “starving them to death.”

Some locals have also expressed concern over a spike in commodity prices due to the lock down in Hyesan, one of the province’s economic centers.

“The donju and merchants in Hyesan are saying they’re going to use this opportunity to raise the prices of goods,” the source said, using a term referring to North Korea’s wealthy entrepreneurial class. “Some are saying that Yanggang Province [authorities] are killing locals twice with the lock down because people are now starting to prepare for the winter by buying up rice, [cooking] oil, and wood.”

During an extended meeting of the Central Committee’s politburo on Aug. 25, North Korean officials discussed ways to overcome issues facing the country’s disease control system. North Korean media reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who attended the meeting, ordered the entire country to take active measures to fix issues with the system.

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

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