North Korean border guards have been ordered to shoot any North Korean citizens attempting to flee the country. According to sources in North Hamgyong Province, two citizens were killed earlier this month while trying to escape across the border to China in Namyang City, North Hamgyong Province.
“In the middle of November, two citizens who were trying to cross the Tumen River into China were shot and killed by border guards who intercepted them. The soldiers didn’t even ask them why they were at the river or order them to turn around. They simply shot them on the spot,” a source in North Hamgyong Province reported to Daily NK on November 25.
“In the past, it was standard procedure to give three warnings before shooting, but this time it wasn’t the case. Instead of reprimanding the soldiers for the incident, the commanding officer rewarded them.”
When asked about the sudden change in policy, an additional source in North Hamgyong Province said, “An order was handed down at the beginning of the month stating that defectors should be shot on the spot without exception. This is being viewed as an attempt to clamp down on defections.”
According to Daily NK’s sources, the incident – involving a soldier shooting a resident without warning – is seen as unprecedented. Since Kim Jong Un rose to power, there has been a continuous stream of shootings, but all have been preceded by warnings to stop moving.
The incident also suggests that the authorities are on edge as the recent flooding has jeopardized their ability to control defection routes. A large number of guard posts along the border were swept away by the flood waters, and the draconian measures are presumably an attempt to compensate for the shortfall by relying on fear tactics.
A separate source in North Hamgyong added, “The threat of summary execution is causing residents to think, ‘If I wander off in the wrong place, it could be the end of me.’ Even on bright and sunny days, the residents are reluctant to visit areas near the river.”
“Even though the dead bodies are drifting downstream, the border guards have no intention of fishing them out. In fact, they seem to be using the bodies to serve as a warning to other residents attempting to escape.’”
When asked how ordinary people are dealing with the incident, the source said, “Talk is swirling around that even residents who have good relationships with the border guards are being advised to avoid the riverside areas. The authorities are using the incident to threaten those who are thinking about trying to escape.”