A market in Hyesan City, where rumors of the execution of 3 smugglers are spreading. Photographed in 2012 by ASIAPRESS

◆ Blocked border results in goods shortages but government warns that smugglers will be charged with treason

“7 people were arrested for smuggling along the Chinese border. 3 of them- the ones who had gone across to China and back- were shot to death.”

On February 11, a reporting partner living near key smuggling areas along the Yalu River in Ryanggang Province, gave the first of such reports.

News of the executions spread quickly within Ryanggang Province. However, with the specific date and location of the executions still unknown, it is possible that such rumors were falsely generated and leaked by the authorities to instill fear among residents. As such, ASIAPRESS worked to gather more information.

A few days following the first report, another reporting partner in the province spoke with ASIAPRESS, passing on words he had heard from a police officer.

“The day of the incident was February 4, and it took place in Hwajeon Village, in Ryanggang Province’s Bocheon County. Of the 7 smugglers arrested, the 3 who had been making border crossings were shot behind closed doors as punishment for their ‘rebellious act.’ Their bodies were cremated immediately after execution to avoid any risk of coronavirus infection.”

The Kim Jong-un regime has blocked off all border crossings with China since late January (or February 1, according to other reports) in order to block the spread of COVID-19 from China. With imports cut off, however, Chinese goods have all but disappeared from local markets, causing the prices of remaining stock to soar. As such, more people are considering smuggling as a way of making money.

According to the reporting partner in contact with the policeman, citizens were given the following warning against smuggling on February 10 at inminban (local political unit) meetings.

“As the whole country is strengthening its defenses and initiating quarantines to block the coronavirus, it is tantamount to treason to make money through smuggling. Such acts will be dealt with according to military law.”
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