Ever since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, North Korea has been taking ever-more-drastic measures to fortify its border with China.
Earlier this month, the Kim regime reportedly placed an increased number of Ministry of State Security (MSS) officials in the region. This followed a move the previous month to close the bridges to China in North Hamgyong Province.
Now, a new report says that even further measures have been taken.
According to Daily NK, which cited a source inside the country, North Korea has begun installing “concrete barriers and high-voltage wires” along its border with China.
“[They are] building concrete walls taller than an adult and installing 3300-volt wires all along the entire area,” the source told the publication. “When [North Korean leader] Kim Jong Un signed an order [to build the barriers], supplies, materials, and personnel were sent [to the area]. The walls aren’t going up all at once everywhere, but are being installed depending on the conditions [of the area]. The first ground for the project was broken in the Chagang Province border area yesterday [Mar. 24].”
The new barriers reportedly resulted from a handwritten order from Kim Jong-un himself, which came during February’s Eighth Party Congress in North Korea. Kim’s thinking, according to Daily NK’s source, is that the barriers are necessary in order to “prevent infiltration of the virus and impede the efforts of internal and external enemies to cause trouble within North Korea.” The idea is also that human guards alone aren’t enough to stop smuggling and other border crossings so that fortified barriers are necessary.
Around the time Kim Jong-un first came to power, long before the start of the pandemic, the border had such fortifications as CCTV cameras and electric barbed wire fences.
“[The barriers] are basically there to prevent illegal activities at the border such as smuggling and border crossings….Inland units such as the Storm Corps [in Dokchon, South Pyongan Province] and the Seventh Corps [in Hamhung, South Hamgyong Province] cannot be permanently stationed at the border,” the site’s source added. “The reduction of the mandatory military service period and the resulting reduction in the number of troops may have also influenced [their decision to fortify the border].”
A report last week stated that a pair of North Korean guards, who were 18 and 19 years old, had been nabbed in China after fleeing over the border in search of food, and had attempted to loot abandoned houses in a village just over the border. Guards on the border in North Korea have traditionally accepted bribes from smugglers, but the pandemic has caused that illicit trade to slow.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.