Unexpectedly harsh crackdowns and extreme treatment of defection cases since the death of Kim Jong Il are leading to fears that life will be even more repressive under Kim Jong Eun in 2012 than it was under his father.
Before the North Korean authorities announced the death of Kim, border security staff were given new orders to ‘eliminate’ suspected defectors and their families. Barricades have been set three or four deep in parts of border areas to keep people from escaping, while movement is being restricted in other cities as well by the People’s Safety Agency, the army and recently formed ‘riot squads’.
According to internal sources, the National Security Agency (NSA) has told local People’s Units to pass on the fact that defection will be met with unconditional punishment for three generations of the family.
Travel to border areas has been stopped for anyone not actually living there. Any travel, even for personal reasons, is banned, with the authorities simply refusing to issue travel passes to border towns. People in those towns have reportedly been told that they risk being shot if they are on the streets without just cause.
A broker from Changbai, China who helps defectors escape from North Korea told Daily NK that it has become extremely difficult to get out of the country at all, saying, “Most people wouldn’t even dream of it now.” Naturally, the increased security controls at the border have doubled the price of crossing the river.
Orders have been handed down to shoot anyone trying to escape via the East or West Seas, too. When an unauthorized boat leaves port, the coastguard issues a warning before giving chase. However, during the mourning period, orders were to treat any unauthorized ship leaving the shore as an attempted defection and to shoot on sight.
One of many side-effects of the new reality is that people in many areas are now finding it hard to make a living since goods are getting harder to source. Many residents have been eagerly awaiting the end of the mourning period so that some sort of ‘normality’ can be restored to their daily lives. However, the fear is that life for those outside Pyongyang will not even be allowed to return to the sort of repressive ‘normality’ that it used to exhibit.