The recent defection of eight North Koreans has prompted the reclusive state to boost its border security, and the country's leader, Kim Jong Un, has ordered barbed-wire fences be installed around the area where the defections were believed to have taken place. The defectors, from two different families in Musan County in North Hamgyong province, are believed to have escaped to China Aug. 9.
The defections have prompted a massive investigation, but so far none of the escapees have been found, the South Korean news agency Daily NK reported Wednesday. The North Korean border garrison was reportedly "thrown into chaos" following revelations of the escape, United Press International reported. Kim has called for immediate action, and the escapes are being considered "political incidents," a source in North Korea told Daily NK.
There have been some 28,000 defections to South Korea since the 1990s. An informant told Daily NK that the recent defections were likely to lead the North Korean government to heighten its surveillance of the defectors' family members who are still in the country.
A little North Korean defection for your Wednesday morning/evening. http://t.co/feBToilTJa
— Zackary Downey (@CrimsonNorth) July 15, 2015
Defection from North Korea is considered a crime. About 1,300 people were reported to have defected from the hermit kingdom in 2014, a drop from the more than 2,400 who escaped the country annually in previous years. The drop in defections might be attributed to the country's changing economic situation, as well as Kim's increased focus on cracking down on defectors, the Guardian reported. Kim reportedly believes the border grows more porous with each defection.
Human rights organizations have repeatedly criticized the Kim family's dynasty for its autocratic style of rule and rampant human rights violations. It is considered to be among the most repressive countries in the world, a Human Rights Watch report found.
North Korea's government is said to maintain secret labor camps for government opponents, where torture and starvation are routine. Religion and free speech in the kingdom are virtually nonexistent, human rights groups charge.
Meanwhile, Kim recently instructed border patrols to remain on high alert in the lead-up to the 70th anniversary, on Oct. 10, of the founding of the communist Workers' Party of Korea, the ruling political party of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.