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(LEAD) N.K. tightens border security to prevent mass defections: source

2016/09/26 14:09

(ATTN: ADDS remarks by a civic activist in Seoul in last 2 paras)

SEOUL, Sept. 26 (Yonhap) -- North Korea has hastily dispatched agents from its State Security Ministry to flood-damaged areas bordering China to block mass defections of residents there, a U.S. broadcaster, monitored in Seoul, reported Monday.

This summer, the North's northeastern provinces adjacent to China were devastated by heavy rains accompanied by Typhoon Lionrock. The United Nations estimates that 138 North Koreans were killed and 400 others are missing in the country's worst flooding in its history, with about 20,000 houses destroyed.

The North Korean authorities employed the step as defections have become easier as the heavy rains wrecked lots of border facilities, such as guard posts, and barbed-wire fences, the Radio Free Asia (RFA) said, citing a source in the North.

"The ministry sent its agents to border areas pertinent to an order from the Central Committee of the North's Workers' Party on Sept. 18, and they are currently staging inspections in all border areas," the source in North Hamkyong Province was quoted as saying.

The agents from the ministry have taken hold of overall border control, the source said.

"The agents are not only cracking down on defectors but on illegal cell phones and CDs containing South Korean dramas and movies," the source said.

Another source in Ryanggang Province also said that agents from the security ministry are inspecting the border areas, making the atmosphere there completely frozen.

"The agents are searching every house, with some households undergoing tough inspections on charges of possessing illegal mobile phones," the source said.

Meanwhile, Kim Yong-wha, head of the Seoul-based NK Refugees Human Rights Association, said, citing a source in the North, that the number of North Korean defectors stood at 10 to 20 a month on average previously, but of late, there are more than 30 a day.

"The steep rise (of defectors) is attributable to lax security as fences and guard posts along the border were swept away by the (summer) floods," Kim said.

(END)

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