North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un has ordered border guards to shoot citizens that attempt to flee into China, according to South Korean media reports.
Officers informed border forces earlier this month that defectors are to be “shot immediately,” the Daily NK reports, citing sources inside North Korea. The orders also include instructions to continue firing on the defectors even if they make it past the midpoint of the Tumen or Yalu rivers that divide China and North Korea.
North Korea is offering incentives to any soldier who shoots a defector, and if that is not motivation enough, failure to follow orders results in execution by firing squad.
North Korea has reportedly also started arresting and jailing soldiers and military officers with ties to known defectors. Investigations are underway in the Ninth Corps, which replaced the Sixth Corps after it was violently purged in the 1990s for allegedly planning a coup.
The intense focus on preventing defections appears to be a response to the defection in November in the Joint Security Area (JSA) at Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).
Oh Chong Song, a young staff sergeant, made a desperate dash into South Korea, first in a jeep and then on foot, his former comrades hot on his heels. The border guards fired around 40 rounds, five of which hit the defecting soldier. One of the guards even pursued the soldier into the South. Oh survived and is recovering at a medical facility in South Korea.
In the immediate aftermath, North Korea reportedly replaced the border guards and called officers to Pyongyang as part of an investigation into the incident.
This embarrassment for the regime has not been reported in North Korean media, but it appears to have gotten the attention of the North Korean leadership. After Oh’s defection, border guards were told that “the entire border region should now be considered the frontline of defense – not just the border itself.”
“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,” a North Korean source inside Ryanggang Province told Daily NK.
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