While the world was grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un was reportedly focused on fortifying his country’s borders.
What Happened: Pyongyang has undertaken a vast construction project to build or upgrade border fences, walls and guard posts. Satellite imagery analyzed by the Middlebury Institute of International Studies along with accounts from defectors and activists, confirms the extent of this effort, reported Reuters.
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The motive behind this fortification appears to maintain stronger control over the flow of information and goods, prevent foreign elements from entering the country and keep the citizens within.
“The traditional North Korea-China route is now effectively over unless there is a major change in the situation,” said a South Korean pastor who has aided North Koreans in their defection attempts.
The pastor and others involved in sensitive border work spoke anonymously or under partial anonymity due to safety concerns and the need to safeguard their networks, stated the report.
Why It Matters: Amidst the global pandemic in 2020, Kim’s regime embarked on a substantial effort to strengthen its borders with China and Russia, effectively blocking the routes used by smugglers and defectors, the report noted.
According to the report, citing official data, the number of defectors reaching South Korea last year was a mere 67, starkly contrasting to the 1,047 recorded in 2019. This decline can be attributed not only to the impact of the pandemic but also to the tightening restrictions in China, which had already contributed to the decreasing trend in defector numbers even before the global health crisis, stated the report.
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