Following the formal tightening of controls along the Sino-North Korean border for much of this year, it has emerged that smugglers have been suffering at the hands of the National Security Agency (NSA). NSA officers have been described as engaging in “excessive” interrogation techniques in order to build their credentials and improve their bribe-taking, a source inside North Korea claims.
“A week ago, someone from a family that smuggles second-hand clothes with Chinese merchants was caught by a border patrol as he was receiving the goods, and is now getting interrogated by the NSA,” a North Korean source based in Yangkang Province reported to Daily NK on September 16th. “When I went to meet him at the NSA, I found that his limbs had been broken with a piece of wood. His face was so beaten up I couldn’t even recognize him.”
According to the source, people caught smuggling used items along the border with China used to pay a bribe of around 1000 Yuan approx. $160) to secure their release, but now that has risen to 5000 Yuan (approx. $800). The rise in beatings is believed to have occurred because smugglers are unable to pay the higher bribe rate.
“If smugglers are detained by border guards they are supposed to pay 5,000 won now, and if they don’t have the money they get handed over to the NSA,” the source confirmed. “If that happens they have to pay 5,000 to 10,000 Yuan, but poorer ones find it impossible to do that.”
“To a smuggler living off selling used clothes, 10,000 Yuan is an very large amount of money,” continued the source. “While smugglers’ families may do everything they can to raise the money to pay for the release, selling everything they have wouldn’t make that amount of money.”
“As Chuseok approaches there is a rise in smuggling activity, and this is being used by the border patrols and NSA to make a killing off ordinary people,” the source went on to allege. “Some particularly unsavoury NSA agents first show the relatives the broken limbs of a family member prior to demanding money.”