On a cold, clear winter day last month, a North Korean soldier packed a pistol and slipped across the frozen Tumen River into northeastern China. He trekked about a mile to the tiny village of Jidi Tun. Then at dusk he opened fire on two elderly couples, killing all four people.
Most likely hungry from the shortage of food that plagues some units of the armed forces in North Korea, he was looking for sustenance, local officials said; some reports said he was drunk.
In most places, a solitary killer from another country would not cause much anxiety. But in China, whose relationship with North Korea has gone from warm to frosty in the last two years, and where many citizens ridicule the young and unpredictable North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, the government treated the episode with alarm.
The soldier was not the first North Korean to cross the border and wreak havoc. In September, a North Korean civilian walked into a nearby Chinese village and killed an elderly couple and their son in a robbery.
Over the past decade, many North Koreans have slipped into China to steal food, and even as Kim has made it more difficult with increased security on his side of the border, they continue to come.
In a triple killing in September, a North Korean man in his early 30s walked into Nanping village and with a hammer bludgeoned to death an elderly couple and their son as they slept. The North Korean man stole about $120 in Chinese currency, a cash bag from the son’s taxi and two cellphones.
The government installed floodlights and cameras in the two villages after the December killing, but no one feels safe, relatives say.
[New York Times]