104. N.Korea Steps Up Crackdown on Defectors
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  Name : Chosunilbo Date : 2010-02-24 오후 1:20:12
North Korea has intensified a crackdown on defectors in the border area with China amid growing economic difficulties caused by a disastrous currency reform, according to an activist group in South Korea.

Good Friends said party headquarters decided on Jan. 27 to launch an intensive crackdown on defectors in towns in North Hamgyong Province bordering China in February. The provincial party committee has been conducting the crackdown in collaboration with security agencies and border guards since Feb. 1, it said.

Officials raid homes every night to check if all are present and correct, the organization said, and if anybody is missing, officials question the family where the person has gone and double-check the next day. If a family is larger than the family register indicates, family members must present themselves at a regional security office for questioning. They are allowed to return home the following day if their story checks out.

"Even party secretaries and government officials are punished if anybody from their area, factory or enterprise flees the North," Good Friends said. "Party secretaries or factory managers in regions where many defections are likely face demotion or dismissal."

Good Friends said the regime sent out patrols to all businesses to look into workers' living environment and ideological propensities. Any worker who has been caught with narcotics or using a mobile phone is placed on a watchlist, it added.

"The absentee rate sharply rose at Songjin Iron and Steel Works in the city of Kimchaek just a month after the shock currency reform was implemented," the organization said. "In a situation where people barely make a living and some of them starve to death, more than half of workers are absent from each production line. An average of 10 workers were absent from each assembly line in early January."

North Korea has also asked China crack down harder on defectors caught there and is reportedly recalling trade officials working in Beijing for a two-week indoctrination course in Pyongyang.
englishnews@chosun.com / Feb. 24, 2010 08:07 KST