Border crackdown seen in North
December 27, 2004 -- Pyeongyang has launched a large-scale crackdown on "anti-state activities" along its border with China, targeting not only border crossings by North Koreans, but the smuggling of Chinese goods and South Korean videotapes into the North, South Korean intelligence officials said yesterday.
In late November, the North's governing Workers' Party and law-enforcement authorities jointly dispatched at least four units of 80 investigators each to the border area, a senior South Korean intelligence official said. "The investigation force will stage probes until the end of January," the official said.
Besides North Koreans crossing into China, the units are targeting the smuggling of Chinese goods into the North, particularly mobile phones, the official said. Also targeted are videotapes of South Korean TV shows, as well as pornography from a variety of countries. Pyeongyang revised its criminal code in April to have legal grounds to prosecute such trade.
Officials said the move was prompted by North Korean border patrols' increased willingness to accept bribes. "The North is trying to tighten security because the [Tumen] river is now frozen," another Seoul official said.
The units are reportedly in Hoeryeong, Musan and Onseong in North Hamgyeong province, and Sinuiju in North Pyeongan. "At some areas, the investigators are also conducting ideological checkups," an official said. In such "checkups," citizens are questioned about their loyalty and that of their relatives and neighbors.
Meanwhile, a Japanese government report Friday indicated that the North Korean regime is showing signs of breakdown. The Public Security Intelligence Agency reported that economic reforms begun in 2002 have brought about enormous social confusion. "Dissatisfaction and challenges against the Kim Jong-il regime have been strengthened, thus there is a possibility of the regime suffering some splits among its supporting groups," the report said.