North Korean authorities arrested seven out of a group of 15 government officials from Pyongyang who were allegedly attempting to defect by crossing the border into China, RFA has learned.
The seven were arrested in a village near the border, while it is believed that the other eight were able to escape. Members of the group may have been carrying secret information in the form of official government documents.
“On January 2nd, the State Security Department launched an emergency operation to arrest a group of 15 people who fled Pyongyang and were heading to the border,” an official from Ryanggang province told RFA. “The fact that they used a plane to prevent them from defecting proves that the would-be defectors are not ordinary people,” said a source.
The source said that the group of 15 had left Pyongyang during the New Year holiday. “Most of them are senior officials. They are believed to have lived in the Ryomyong Street and Mirae Scientists Street area in the central area of Pyongyang,” the source added, referring to a newly developed area of the capital with expensive high-rise apartments.
Another source, a law enforcement official in Ryanggan told RFA that the operation “was belatedly reported. The State Security Department and the Provincial Security Department launched a desperate arrest operation to prevent them from defecting,” said the second source.
The second source also said that the use of an airplane in the sting was not normal. “I’ve been working for the judicial authorities all my life, but I’ve never heard of flying an airplane to catch North Korean defectors,” the second source said.
[Radio Free Asia]