DPRK curtailing family visits to China

According to the Daily NK:

The number of North Korean residents permitted to visit relatives in China is down significantly from last year’s statistics during the same period. Yet another attempt to regain control, this move is another attempt by the paranoid leadership to block exchanges with the outside world and the plethora of information available there.

A source in China reported to Daily NK on August 22, “In August, there are usually no large events taking place in North Korea, so it’s usually easier for people to visit family members in China then; this year though, that doesn’t seem to be happening.” He went on to explain the reasoning behind the decline, “There is testimony that the North Korean authorities are actively curtailing the number of those going to China for this purpose.”

North Korean residents traversing the border to visit family members in China began in 2000, just after the period of the famine, referred to as the “Arduous March.” As the authorities could no longer provide regular food rations to the people, it resorted to dispatching them to “go abroad and seek help.” Naturally, China presented as the simplest option.

The currency reform on November 30, 2009 sought to curb inflation and monetary overhang but resulted in the inverse, hyperinflation. Residents took to seeking out their brethren in China for assistance to cope with the additional financial hardship. The outcome of the 100:1 redenomination fostered increased mistrust in the authorities by residents as well as mass panic on the ground; most watched helplessly as hard-earned savings were reduced to worthless bits of paper.

The situation this year is vastly different, the source explained. This month has seen daily averages of five North Korean travelers pass through Dandong Customs House, a sharp decline from the 50-100 individuals who moved through on a given day in past years, an indication that the North Korean authorities have drastically reduced visas permitting these visitations.

A similar dip in numbers arose shortly after events commemorating the anniversary of Kim Il Sung’s birth on April 15th, 2014; the daily average of North Koreans advancing through Dandong Customs House was approximately 10 people. This is the busiest time of year in North Korea, as rice-planting season runs from May to June and the entire population is mobilized to work on farms, explaining the decline in those headed to China.

“There are some North Koreans who are still going to China, but most of them are involved in business or trading; general residents are nowhere to be seen. Compared to the annual crowds pouring out after ‘Victory Day,’ [July 27th celebrations marking the signing of the Korean War Armistice signed in 1953, perceived as a victory in the North] this is quite unusual,” he said.

The source interpreted this not as an anomaly, but rather as a measure instigated by a regime gaining confidence in its economic status. This year did see record breaking trade activity between China and North Korea and the relative stabilization of market prices in the North. Rather than seeking help abroad, the North Korean authorities are trying to solve these matters domestically; with concurrent attempts to cultivate a better image internationally.

Most notably, residents’ exposure to outside information in China has given the authorities new pause in their willingness to send them abroad; potential economic gains in China are not worth North Koreans breaking away from state ideology.

“In the past, people only had to offer up the proper amount in bribes to the State Security Department to get them to overlook activities by Christians or others entrenched in ideas acquired on the outside, but now it’s certain they would get caught,” he explained. Now that the authorities are aware of the effects, they are ratcheting up their efforts to stem them, “There are so many who don’t return these days that the authorities fear even bigger problems will arise if they allow people to go [to China].”

“The stringent controls placed on border security and outside phone calls are so much more severe since Kim Jong Eun came to power. The latest in this series of attempts at mind control is to do away with any chance for North Koreans to meet freely with relatives in China,” he concluded.

The upcoming September 9th holiday, which marks the founding date of the state, and the day the Chosun Workers’ Party was founded, October 10th, are both expected to yield even fewer able to enter China to visit family members. While there is always the possibility for the North Korean authorities to expand permission again after the events end, the downward trend is expected to continue.

Read the full story here:
NK Authorities Slash China Visits
Daily NK
Lee Sang Yong
2014-08-25

Share

Comments are closed.


An affiliate of 38 North