After the death of Kim Jong Il, the North Korean regime has taken bold steps to bolster control of its border with China.
According to a report by Open Radio for North Korea (ORNK), 20,000 new troops arrived in the Shinuiju area earlier this month to help secure the border. The new troops come with orders of shoot to kill. These orders have already been followed; as three men were recently executed after they were caught trying to cross the Yalu River into China.
The authorities are also enlisting ordinary citizens to help in preventing defections. According to a Yangkang source who spoke with the DailyNK, the regime has ordered the people living in the border area to “produce and present 1m long barricades with nails sticking out.” The source goes on to state that the regime’s plan is to bury the spiked planks along the riverbank, as well as in shallow areas of the river. These civilian-made defenses add to the recent fortifications (such as additional roadblocks, barricades, and barbed wire) made in the border areas by the regime.
For those not living in the border areas, travel to the area has become impossible. All travel to border regions has been banned, as authorities have simply refused to issue travel passes.
The regime has also issued shoot to kill orders to North Korean coast guard units controlling the east and west seas; making the less used, and considerably more dangerous, route of escape more perilous as well.
With the new leadership of Kim Jong Un has also come a ban on the trade of any foreign currency in the North Korean markets. More sternly, the regime has also threatened to kill defectors' progeny for three generations to come.
These policies show the new regime’s inherent fear that a sudden rise in defectors crossing the Chinese border may destabilize and threaten their tenuous hold on power.
Speaking to the ORNK, a source in Sinuiju claimed, "The continual message is about building a strong and prosperous nation for 2012, but ordinary folk not in the business of trading, especially trading with the Chinese, are drawing comparison with the mid-nineties arduous march."
The source continued, "People thought the son successor might open up and reform the country, but they're demoralized to see foreign currency use restrictions imposed and a deepening of state oppression."