North tightens hold on citizens

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North tightens hold on citizens

As international pressure mounts and a major North Korean congressional meeting fast approaches, Pyongyang is clamping down on its own people.

North Korea’s 7th Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea, the body’s first meeting in 36 years, is scheduled to convene in May, when authorities will make changes to the policies of the Party and chart the nation’s future.

It will be the first congress for the 33-year-old leader, who succeeded the late Kim in December 2011.

Sources who are familiar with the internal situation of North Korea say that the North’s intelligence agency has beefed up its surveillance, notably on families of defectors, and dispatched more agents to the pubic areas such as markets, train stations and Mansude, where the statues of founder Kim Il-sung and the late Kim Jong-il stand in central Pyongyang.

“Ahead of the 7th Party congress, the North’s State Security Department held a convention recently, promising to gift Kim Jong-un ‘silent borders,’” a source said in a phone interview with Yonhap News Agency, adding that the State Security Department “is strengthening control over residents, blaming them for internal information leaks to South Korean media.”

It is reportedly said that the North’s intelligence agency is cracking down on people who are trying to cross the border to China, as well as people who are talking with South Koreans by phone.

According to a civic activist group, No Chain for North Korea, Pyongyang has recently set up barbed-wired fences along the Chinese border, which were originally being used at Hoeryong concentration camp, officially known as Camp No. 22, in North Hamgyong.

It said that the move was made right after the United Nations unanimously adopted the strongest sanctions on March 3 to punish the North’s recent nuclear and long-range missile tests.

The civic group said while the North authorities moved the barbed-wire fences to the border, it also spread rumors saying these measures were intended to “prevent a Chinese assault,” suggesting North Korea is also trying to incite hostility against China, its only ally, which has recently taken a strong stance against the North.

The Hoeryong concentration camp, founded around 1965, has apparently functioned as a collective farm since 2012, when satellite images shown parts of it being destroyed.

Around 27,000 inmates at the camp reportedly starved, the rest being shipped to various other facilities, including Kaechon internment, also known as Camp No. 14, in South Pyongan, and Yodok concentration camp, or Camp No. 15, in South Hamgyong.

BY KIM SO-HEE, SUH JAE-JOON [kim.sohee0905@joongang.co.kr]

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