North Korea in emergency border crackdown following inter-Korean summit

Kang Mi Jin  |  2018-05-01 14:45

A North Korean guard post near the border with China. Image: Daily NK

The North Korean authorities have reportedly stepped up security in the border areas in the days following last Friday's inter-Korean summit and signing of the joint 'Panmunjom Declaration' committing to peace and denuclearization on the Peninsula. The move is being seen as an attempt to ward off any potential incidents arising from the more relaxed outward appearance of the government.

A source in North Hamgyong Province told Daily NK on April 29, "The vast majority of people are quite excited over the inter-Korean summit, but the authorities have ordered police and border guards to carry out emergency border measures."

"The emergency security measures were scheduled to finish April 30, but I don't know if it will last beyond that," he added. "With the Rodong Sinmun widely circulating details of the summit, the atmosphere has shifted towards anticipation of more inter-Korean exchanges in the future. But now a lot of people are worried after this sudden intensification of border security."

North Korean state newspaper Rodong Sinmun printed commentary and over 60 photos of the inter-Korean summit a day after the event on Saturday, April 28. Ordinary North Koreans were surprised to learn of the details, including the fact that Kim was the first of the country's leaders to visit South Korea.

"It seems that the authorities thought defections would rise or there would be an influx of foreign information amid the change in atmosphere, leading them to focus on strengthening security in the border region," added a source in Ryanggang Province.

This revelation, including opposition to the crackdown among ordinary people, highlights the stark contrast between the North's outward promotion of peace and reconciliation and intensifying internal controls.

"A person in Hoeryong told me how he was warned by soldiers on guard at the border when he went to wash some farming tools in the (Tumen) river. He remarked angrily in reaction that 'the people and army aren't even unified in this country, so what is this talk of [national] unification?'" said a separate source in North Hamgyong Province.

"The soldiers who have to take on the emergency security measures may see these kinds of assignments as unavoidable, but using banmal (casual grammatical form of speech) when speaking to an adult like that is considered crude. I have also heard people say that, in preparation for unification, the soldiers' ideology and also their integrity will need to be reformed."

With a population yearning for rapid improvements to North-South relations and a government intent on limiting the domestic impact of any such related changes, the possibility of a crack emerging in the system grows. Even as the North engages with the South, the authorities are likely to continue with their recent crackdown on South Korean popular media, as it still represents a significant threat to their system of oppression.

*Translated by Colin Zwirko

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