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N. Korean agents arrest family members of defectors near border

"The agents, who have to make year-end payments to their superiors, feverishly watched the families until the very last day of the year," a source told Daily NK

By Lee Chae Un

January 24, 2024

Security agents made several arrests of family members of North Korean defectors living in the China-North Korea border areas of Yanggang Province late last year, Daily NK has learned. Authorities in the border areas reportedly kept a close watch on defectors’ families until the last day of the year.

Speaking on condition of anonymity for security reasons, a source in Yanggang Province told Daily NK on Monday that “security agents made a series of arrests of defectors’ family members late last year while they were picking up money sent by their relatives in South Korea for the New Year.”

According to the source, a family in Hyesan picked up money sent by their relative in South Korea through a remittance agent on Dec. 29.

Soon after, however, security agents barged into their home. Having followed the broker earlier, the agents sensed something was up and immediately searched the family’s home.

Ultimately, the security agents confiscated all the cash they found in the house, arrested a member of the family and the remittance broker who transferred the money and took them to the city branch of the Ministry of State Security.

On Jan. 10, the family member was sentenced to three months of hard labor, while the remittance agent was sentenced to six months.

This was not the only such detention. Local security agents in Hyesan arrested the family member of another defector on Dec. 31, the last day of the year.

Thinking everything would be okay because it was the last day of the year, the person in question went to collect money from a remittance agent, but security agents raided the scene and arrested him. As a result, the person had to start the New Year in jail, the source said.

“Security agents in the border region stepped up their surveillance of defectors’ families at the end of last year,” the source said. “The agents, who have to make year-end payments to their superiors, feverishly watched the families until the very last day of the year, knowing that the defectors would send money to their relatives in the North for the New Year’s holiday.”

“Since the border closure, the only people with money are the defectors’ families and remittance agents, so they’ve become the main prey of the security agents,” the source said. “The families of defectors and remittance brokers are being as careful as possible, but they live in fear because it’s not easy to avoid raids.”

Translated by David Black. Edited by Robert Lauler.

Daily NK works with a network of sources living in North Korea, China, and elsewhere. Their identities remain anonymous for security reasons. For more information about Daily NK’s network of reporting partners and information-gathering activities, please visit our FAQ page here.

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