North Korea hasn't been able to contain its secrets within its borders. Residents, in search of a new and better life, have often abandoned their homes in North and have been labeled as defectors who are considered "human scum" by the Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un. To prevent that from happening, the North has introduced a new law.
By spilling beans about North Korea's secrets, those defectors — around 35,000 — have not only exposed the cruelty of Kim's regime but have also embarrassed him in front of the whole world. Their defection has also raised questions on North's airtight security — something that Kim's regime can't withstand.
More Red Tape for Traveling to Border Regions
The new law is an attempt to block them from permanently leaving the country. Those who need to travel to regions bordering China for business, funeral and other genuine reasons must submit documents with their fingerprint pledging not to defect the country, as per a resident in North Hamgyong province.
Earlier, North Korean citizens were allowed to travel to bordering regions up on verbal declaration not to defect. However, to travel to those regions, they had to obtain inter-provincial travel passes by providing citizen certificate and a character reference from a neighborhood watch unit leader, a local security official and authority at the destination. Now that is not enough anymore.
"Stamping another fingerprint to get a travel certificate is not that difficult, but it is unpleasant that so many confirmation documents have been added, and people going to the border areas feel frustrated that they are being treated as potential escapees," the resident said.
The new rule has hampered inter-province travel for many residents as they have not been able to produce the extra documents. Some of them have even missed important family events due to a lack of paperwork.
"An acquaintance of mine applied for a permit to travel to the border area to attend his mother's 70th birthday party. He was able to go to his hometown after going through all that difficulty, but his daughters, who are married and live in Hwanghae and Pyongan provinces, were unable to attend, so the party was held without them, in an atmosphere of disappointment," said the resident as reported by Express.
Residents who live in or near the bordering areas are already considered potential escapees and they have already been subjected to harsher rules with their movements severely restricted.
"Even if they want to move to other areas because they don't like it, the authorities usually won't allow them to leave, so they are very unhappy," said another resident.
The Kim Geum Hyok Incident
The new law was introduced earlier this month following defectors in South Korea holding anti-Pyongyang protests. They sent in leaflets through hot-air balloons that also contained radio and food. But following defector Kim Geum Hyok's return, the new law will make it even harder for residents to leave the country. The 24-year-old deserted his country for South Korea but returned to North on July 24 after he was issued an arrest warrant.
His defection and return have baffled both Koreas' border security. While he is considered COVID-19 patient zero in the North, the South sees it as a flaw in security. Seoul has promptly removed one of its Marine Major-General on Friday, July 31, following his return to Kaesong, a North Korean province. The border area Kim Geum chose to cross is heavily fortified but even then, he could trick both countries' security arrangements by crawling through a drainage channel. South's Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong Doo issued an apology over his defection. "I have no excuse even if I'm told off a hundred times over this," he said.
As for Kim Geum, he faces harsh punishment in the North for defection which potentially carries the death penalty. For now, he is put under isolation after showing symptoms of COVID-19 and all his contacts in Kaesong have been put under quarantine while the entire district has been isolated.