North Korea border guards kill five defectors to China

In what looks like a new departure for the government of Kim Jong-il, border guards have reportedly shot dead five North Korean refugees after pursuing them across the frozen Yalu River, which forms a natural border with neighbouring China.



Thousands of North Koreans have fled the world’s last Stalinist state in a bid to escape poverty and hunger.

South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported that border guards chased seven refugees across the river into China, before opening fire.

“Five of them died instantly under intensive gunfire by North Korean border guards who had run after them and the two others were wounded and taken to the North,” the paper said.

The reports said the guards dragged the bodies and the injured back over the border with the permission of Chinese authorities.

The seven had left Hyesan in Yanggang province and walked across the frozen Yalu River and reached the Chinese side on 14 December, the paper reported, quoting a high-level source in Changbai in the Chinese province of Jilin.

This is the first time in years that there have been reports of defectors being shot. North Korean border guards have never before shot defectors once they had reached the Chinese side of the border.

The shooting comes at a time of heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula, following the North’s nuclear tests and its shelling of a South Korean island late last year.

Mr Kim’s heir, Kim Jong-un, who is being groomed to take over from his ill father, has denounced refugees as traitors and has reportedly ordered border guards to shoot anyone trying to leave the country illegally.

A year ago, the government in Pyongyang reportedly gave shoot-to-kill orders after disastrous reform of its currency caused widespread hardship among the already impoverished populace by wiping out savings.

Many North Korean defectors escape through China, finding sanctuary with ethnic Koreans in the border regions of China, and then make their way to the South. In some cases China has handed back defectors across the border to an uncertain fate.

However, the area is deeply porous and difficult to monitor with lots of traffic, both trade and human, crossing the frontier.

China is North Korea’s sole ally, and both communist countries fought side-by-side against the United States and the South during the 1950-53 Korean War, while food and fuel aid from China is said to keeping the North Korean economy going.

Beijing is keen for stability in North Korea as it does not want a flood of refugees across the frontier, and it does not want the US-backed South Korea gaining a foothold on its borders.

Their relationship is occasionally strained. In June, China lodged a diplomatic protest after a North Korean border guard shot and killed three Chinese citizens and wounded a fourth, on suspicion they were crossing the border for illegal trade.

In March last year, a prominent North Korean defector, Hwang Jang-yop, was found dead in Seoul, and there was a suspicion that he had been assassinated, although police subsequently said he died of a heart attack.

Separately, North Korea accused South Korean internet users of hacking into one of its websites, calling the action a provocation aimed at undermining its national dignity.



Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
News
Tottenham legend Jimmy Greaves has defended fans use of the word 'Yid'
people
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West, performing in New York last week, has been the subject of controversy as rock's traditional headline slot at Glastonbury is lost once again
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living