[The Financial Times] The last Covid reopening? North Korea eases its pandemic self-isolation

12 Dec 2023

On September 11, The Financial Times reported on North Korea's reopening of its borders, which enabled the repatriation of North Koreans who stayed abroad during the pandemic. This reopening is marked by strengthened relations with China and Russia while reducing the regime's reliance on Western aid and diplomacy. Experts suggest that the North Korean government will likely maintain strict surveillance and control measures established during the pandemic, including intense ideological indoctrination for returning citizens and the bolstering of border security with advanced surveillance technology. The story underscored the dire situation faced by North Korean escapees in China, with the risk of forced repatriation, as escape routes became increasingly difficult due to enhanced surveillance technologies.

Su Bobae, a researcher at NKDB, appeared in the article explaining the difficulties North Korean escapees face lately due to technological advances that make it easier for the Chinese authorities to identify individuals and monitor them.

A more concerning fate awaits North Korean refugees detained as “illegal migrants” in China. Last month, a coalition of human rights organisations wrote to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights expressing alarm that Beijing was set to restart forced repatriations of as many as 2,000 North Koreans.

Meanwhile, the routes for escape have tightened. Su Bobae, a Seoul-based researcher at the Database Center for North Korean Human Rights, said China’s deployment of facial recognition and biometric technologies had made it harder for North Koreans to cross a border previously patrolled only by human guards, who could be evaded or bribed.

“It will be difficult to secure useful testimonies or information from defectors who can vividly explain the current situation in North Korea,” said Su.

You can read the full article on The Financial Times website by clicking HERE.