The NSA Smuggling Ring

Daily NK
Lee Sung Jin

Recently in the North Korea-China border region, North Korean smuggling groups associated with the National Security Agency have been actively operating.

A source from Yangkang Province relayed in a phone conversation with the Daily NK on the 16th, “On the 9th in Songjeon-ri, Kim Jong Sook County in Yangkang Province, a van ferried on a raft fell into the water, so the border guards and the National Security Agents tried to get it out in the middle of the day. The van was being smuggled from China by the ‘national smuggling group.'”

The “national smuggling group,” or “NSA smuggling group,” which earned its epithet from the North Korean citizens, is directly operated by the National Security Agency and is composed of soldiers, well-to-do merchants, Chinese emigrants, and Chinese relatives of officials.

The group was organized in the fall of last year and has been in operation since then. The source added that its size, members, and range of traded items have significantly increased.

The source stated further, “In Hyesan alone there were at least three smuggling groups by the end of the summer, but with the passing by of the fall harvesting season, there are now about seven in operation. With the National Security Agency making profit from these groups, the No. 8 Bureau of the Chosun (North Korea) People’s Army (in charge of mobilizing war supplies) even formed a group last summer.”

In particular, it has become known that the No. 8 Bureau, under the patronage of the National Security Agency, sold a massive supply of medicinal herbs secured in North Korea to the Chinese merchants in exchange for Chinese rice.

The source emphasized, “Usually, there are four or five active members of a smuggling group. In the past, they only smuggled at night, but the groups have lately been taking advantage of quiet places during the day to hand over goods.”

He said, “When the groups engage in smuggling, the commander or vice-commander of the border guard unit will go on duty. After the National Security Agency calls the border unit, the smuggling group(s) goes out at a pre-determined time and hands over the goods.”

Goods that are currently handled by the groups are not only marine products or scrap iron, but are increasingly high-priced goods such as gold or drugs, because they can be traded for cash.

The source explained, “The smuggling groups have to give approximately 30 million North Korean won (approximately USD8,500) per person a month to the state, but ordinary smuggling does not suffice to make such a sum of money. The state severely punishes trading drugs or gold, but given the exorbitant sum which has to be paid to superiors, there has been a tendency to engage in the trading of such goods.”

He noted, “Nowadays, each unit acquires the necessary goods, so the border smuggling channel created by private individuals for trading has also been used by the national organization.”


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