Border forces ordered to fire at defectors even after crossing into Chinese territory

Kim Chae Hwan  |  2017-12-18 15:50
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Kim Jong Un has ordered the countrys military forces along the Chinese border to immediately shoot at fellow residents who attempt to escape the country as the regime intensifies efforts to prevent defections. 

The North Korean authorities have begun issuing fresh orders to prevent copycat defections following last month's daring escape by a soldier via the Panmunjom Joint Security Area (JSA). 

A source in Ryanggang Province told Daily NK on December 13 that orders were issued on November 23 detailing the JSA incident, informing the soldiers that "the entire border region should now be considered the frontline of defense - not just the border itself."

Referring to the border with China, the source added that "the military forces stationed along the border are expected to have a greater 'revolutionary spirit' and have been told to convert the border region into an impenetrable fortress."

The order was issued just 10 days after the JSA defection, indicating the seriousness with which the regime views the incident. 

The regime may have opted to inform the soldiers early in order to control the message, instead of its forces hearing about the news through rumors. The JSA defection story has not been publicized through the official North Korean media yet. 

It appears that the regime has been unsettled by the event, as it has openly warned all border forces during the December 1 military training this month that orders are in place for anyone found trying to defect to be "shot immediately."

Another aspect of the new order is that even if a person has already crossed over the midpoint of the Tumen or Yalu rivers along the border with China, soldiers are still required to try and kill them. Previously, soldiers were only permitted to shoot defectors before they had reached the midpoint of the river into Chinese territory. 

However, it is unclear whether soldiers will actually follow these orders. Although Kim Jong Un has promised a reward of automatic Workers' Party membership to any soldier who successfully shoots a defector attempting to flee, the incentive is not particularly enticing. Most soldiers are aware that Party membership is readily available to anyone for the cost of a bribe.

However, Kim Jong Un's brand of fear politics may be enough to ensure the order is at least partially enforced. Soldiers are also aware that failure to follow orders can result in execution by firing squad.

In addition to the order, a separate source in Ryanggang Province said, Kim Jong Un has also announced his intention to improve conditions for the military, offering peppermint candy to soldiers who are out on patrol. However, this is also not being seen as a significant change from previous policy. 

*Translated by Colin Zwirko

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