North Korean authorities recently withdrew State Security University (SSU) students dispatched to the China-North Korea border ahead of Kim Il Sung’s birthday on Apr. 15, Daily NK has learned. 

A source in North Hamgyong Province told Daily NK on Tuesday that the authorities issued a withdrawal order to soon-to-be-graduated students of SSU who had been sent to Musan, North Hamgyong Province. The students returned to campus after a five-month-long “practical training” on the border.

The North Korean authorities dispatched a large number of students from SSU to Musan and other border regions in December of last year to restore order to regions troubled by issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. After the situation along the border became more stable, the authorities ordered students to withdraw from the area in mid-March. 

The recent withdrawal order stemmed from complaints raised by local Ministry of State Security (MSS) officials, who had a difficult time managing where all the students would stay in the region. 

“SSU students deployed to border areas in North Hamgyong Province conducted various activities, such as conducting in-depth dialogue with locals and better understanding local ideological trends,” the source said. “Their practical training began on orders of the authorities, but the most important issue they faced was in regards to where they ate and slept.”

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A sentry post on the Sino-North Korean border in Sakju County, North Pyongan Province. / Image: Daily NK

Since last November, MSS officers in Musan have received only enough government rations to feed themselves. The officers had to provide room and board to the students, who were without relatives in the border region. The officers – annoyed by the extra responsibility pushed on them – hardly saw the students as welcome guests.

“The leadership just dispatched the students [to the border] without taking steps to prepare for where the students should stay and how they should eat,” the source said. “Local security ministry officials were left entirely responsible for feeding and housing the students because they were sent by higher ups without any additional assistance.

“Local security ministry officers had no choice but to find food in their own homes and the homes of others to feed the students,” the source further explained, adding, “The officers have had to support the SSU students for several months.”

Locals were also reportedly displeased by the dispatch of the students to the area. The students used their status as “security guidance officers” to request interviews and conduct home visits, which caused considerable discomfort to people living in the area.

Locals reportedly offered food and filtered cigarettes to the students to avoid potential disadvantages if they made them participate in an interview. However, some North Koreans who are barely scraping by in the current economy were left clicking their tongues in instances when students deliberately waited until mealtime to conduct interviews so they could get a free dinner. 

“People silently tolerated the students’ impolite behavior…they had no idea how the students would report their ideology in the interview documents because the students had no connections to the area,” the source said. “So locals were also glad to hear that the SSU students are withdrawing.”

SSU is a special university located in Pyongyang’s Mangyongdae District. The university aims to raise the next generation of MSS officers to monitor locals and identify “rebellious elements” that could threaten the North Korean system.

*Translated by S & J

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