The reason for this measure is so that Pyongyang can crack down on smuggling. A source in China, who was speaking to Daily NK, mentioned that: “The order concerns ships travelling along the Yalu River and states that they must have a Ministry of State Security [MSS] agent on board. “The order applies to all ships, regardless of whether they are container ships or fishing boats, and irrespective of their affiliation or purpose.”
The MSS announced earlier this month that anybody who was caught interacting in criminal activity near the border would be subject to strong punishments.
The illegal activity consists of smuggling and attempting to defect.
The state has decided now not just to opt for rehabilitation methods, such as being forced to work at a labour camp, but stronger punishments.
The announcement of several measures pertaining to illegal activity near the border in the space of a month demonstrates how sensitive North Korean authorities are to smuggling and information leaks in the area.
“Because there’s so much money to be made, the measures won’t stop the smuggling. Smugglers will just have to pay higher bribes to the security officials.”
According to the source it takes around RMB 5,000 to RMB 7,000 [USD 700 to USD 1,000] to pay off security officials.
“Smugglers are complaining that instead of reducing smuggling, [the new measures] will simply push up the cost of doing business.”
However, escape from North Korea isn’t as straightforward as one might think.
Even if citizens are lucky enough to break free there is no guarantee that when they reach a country like China that they won’t then be sent back.
The majority of North Koreans who escape through China face a fate, which is directly against the UN Displaced Persons Act.
This is because the country and the DPRK signed an agreement in 1993, which specifies the allowance for the arrest and repatriation of illegal border crossers and immigrants.
To this day, China continues to arrest and repatriate North Koreans.