NSA agents in Hyesan under greater scrutiny

Pictured above (Google Earth): Hyesan City’s Kanggu-dong (강구동), Wiyon-dong (위연동), and Songpong-dong (송봉동) mentioned in the Daily NK story below.

According to Daily NK:

A source from Hyesan revealed the news yesterday, saying, “On the 11th, an NSA agent responsible for the Kanggu area of Hyesan committed suicide at his office. In one soldier’s testimony during the process of an investigation into the border guard unit, it came out that he had aided smuggling and defections, and had taken bribes. Out of fear of punishment, he killed himself.”

According to the source, there has recently been one other similar case in the city. In that instance, an NSA agent responsible for the Wuiyeon area killed himself at his house during April, apparently during an NSA investigation centering on the fact that an abnormally large number of defector families were there.

In another instance, NK Intellectuals Solidarity recently reported a case from February, where an NSA agent covering the Songbong area of the city killed himself at the time of his arrest by smashing his head into a wall. In that case, however, the NSA investigation was focused around the sale of 1kg of narcotics.

This is causing tension in the city, the source went on, explaining, “They are warning people not to gossip to others about issues related to the National Security Agency. The rumor now circulating is that there will be an in depth investigation by the central Party soon, so the feeling here is uneasy.”

In North Korea, a local NSA agent is responsible for roughly 1,000 households or less. Through roughly 40 or 50 people’s unit heads and Women’s Union cadres, the agent obtains information on the activities of local people and passes on instructions to them, thus playing a key role in the preservation of the system.

For smugglers and defectors, stepping outside this surveillance net is both important, and also hard. For that reason, smugglers commonly buy off NSA agents. Sources and defectors both agree that abetting defection is rarer, since it is punished more harshly, with whole extended families facing extreme consequences.

Ordinary city residents, meanwhile, are not sad to see the back of any agent who takes his own life, the source added, pointing out that they are one of the most hated groups in North Korea.

Hyesan is an ideal location from which to stage a defection.  Though it is the capital of Ryanggang Province (Yangang, 량강도) , it is both geographically and administratively remote—on the Chinese and DPRK sides of the border.  The border itself is a very shallow, sometimes dry, Yalu River basin which is lined in both directions with railway service.

Read the full story here:
Spate of NSA Agent Suicides in Hyesan
Daily NK
Lee Seok Young
2011-6-17

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