North Korean military sources told RFA that a group of six Korean soldiers guarding the Yalu River border with China abandoned the garrison and escaped across the river earlier this month.
Six soldiers are stationed near the border in the northern Ryanggang province, near the city of Hyesan. Sources told RFA that the increased work schedule and meager supply since the outbreak of the coronavirus in early 2020 left them hungry and overworked, but the authorities have yet to determine the dynamics. their escape engine.
“Over 3rd… Six soldiers from the 25th Border Guard brigade escaped with their weapons. A Hyesan military official told RFA’s Korean Service on Monday that it caused quite a stir not only for the border security department but also for the army near the Hyesan area.
“Six people were on night duty guarding the border on the second nightnd and did not show up after their scheduled return time early in the morning. A search team scoured the entire border area looking for them. It was determined that six people crossed the river with their weapons and fled to China, ”said the source, requesting anonymity for security reasons.
The soldiers in the Korean army are not adequately provided by the government. It is not uncommon to see uniformed soldiers working on farms to get enough food for their units.
But under normal circumstances, border guards are in a relatively special situation and can easily find enough money to support themselves. Many people take bribes to look the other way when smugglers transport goods into and out of the country, while others engage in smuggling on their own.
However, smuggling is nearly stopped at the onset of a coronavirus pandemic. In January 2020, Beijing and Pyongyang closed the Sino-North Korean border and suspended all trade, with disastrous consequences for the North Korean economy.
To further prevent people from crossing the border, Pyongyang set up a murder zone in the summer, warning that anyone caught within a kilometer of the border will be shot in the target range.
Authorities also ordered border security forces to place mines along some areas of the border and sent special forces to monitor the border forces.
“Usually border guards collude with professional smugglers and smugglers, they live better than soldiers in other regions. However, the coronavirus outbreak has been raging for over a year, so the smuggling has completely stopped, and they are starving these days, ”the source said.
“Professional and amateur smugglers can’t even reach the border in times like this. There was a shooting order from the headquarters, and the border security intensity was much higher than before. The soldiers were all tired, ”the source said.
Another military source from Ryanggang on Tuesday confirmed that six soldiers were from 25order The brigade escaped to China by crossing the Yalu River with their automatic rifles.
“When this was reported to the Central Committee, the area around Hyesan and the border area was completely turned upside down,” said the second source who requested anonymity freely.
“The border security command and a search team from the State Security Department searched the border area and the city of Hyesan, but they concluded that six border guards had fled to China,” the source said. said the second.
A second source said that border guards were in such a privileged position that only well-connected people could join their ranks.
“They are better provided, and they can easily earn more income than other military units. The border forces do not actually guard the border, they take money from the Chinese and North Korean smugglers who illegally cross the border. They live quite well before coronavirus ”, said the second source.
“The soldier’s motives for escaping from Korea are still unclear, but people assume they accidentally crossed the river to steal food because of hunger, or they might have planned to flee the country and finally got it. Show your plans for night duty duty. , ”Said the second source.
A second source said that the border security agency was in turmoil because of the escape. An escape would be a problem, but the six together escaping making the incident so serious that the ruling Korean Workers Party Central Committee is watching.
“The High Command has notified the Chinese border forces and asked to cooperate in finding and arresting the fleeing soldiers, and China seems to take this incident very seriously. Since the six soldiers are armed and dangerous, the Chinese guards must be very stressed out about what could happen, “the second source said.
“Residents of border areas had a very difficult time making a living in the era of the coronavirus. The escape of the six soldiers only increased tension in the border area with more frequent and thorough inspections, “said the second source.
According to the second source, the six escapers were not the only ones responsible for their escape.
“Even if they get caught, their entire company will be disbanded, and their commander and anyone else involved will be held accountable, so there will be a little bloodbathing here for a while. . “
Yonggun Shin’s Report to RFA’s Korea Service. Translation by Leejin Jun. Written in English by Eugene Whong.