Two fishing boats attached to the North Pyongan province branch of the Ministry of State Security were recently seized by North Korean military patrol boats after illegally leaving port in violation of COVID-19 quarantine rules.
The case was handed over to the State Emergency Anti-Epidemic Command, which is investigating the case.
According to a Daily NK source in North Pyongan province last Thursday, two fishing boats attached to the North Pyongan province branch of the Ministry of State Security illegally left port in the early morning hours of July 26. , apparently with the permission of executives linked to the local Ministry of State Security.
The two boats had been assembled near Hadan-ri, Sinuiju and Cholsan County.
The provincial branch of the Ministry of State Security has long secretly allowed its fishing boats to sail illegally during the holidays to obtain seafood for the holidays. This time, the ministry allowed the two ships to secretly leave port ahead of the July 27 “Victory Day” holiday marking the armistice that ended the Korean War.
The ships’ captains – finding they couldn’t hire many crew members because they had to operate under the radar – took their boats out to sea with a crew of high school-aged parents.
However, the two vessels were soon discovered by North Korean Navy coastal patrol boats.
Believing the vessels to be Chinese fishing boats using the cover of darkness to operate illegally in North Korean waters, the patrol boats issued loudspeaker warnings and made their approach.
When they discovered that the boats were in fact North Korean, the patrol boats immediately seized and detained them.
The high school students who were on board were sent home, while the remaining captains and crew were handed over to Army Security.
Bypassing provincial quarantine authorities, the Army Security Department used its own internal reporting network to directly notify the State Emergency Epidemic Command in Pyongyang that the boats had illegally left port and were carrying minors.
The offense having taken place as part of the implementation of North Korea’s “maximum emergency epidemic prevention system” – which calls for reinforced patrols along the DMZ and national borders and in the the country’s seas and skies – authorities have taken the matter very seriously for allegedly “sowing chaos in quarantine efforts and poor discipline in maritime surveillance.
The state’s Emergency Epidemic Command immediately rushed to the scene to begin investigating everyone involved in the incident, the source said.
The state’s Emergency Anti-Epidemic Command reportedly presented plans to maritime surveillance agencies in the Yellow Sea to severely punish those who turned a blind eye to such illegal activities during the “spring” fishing season of April to July. He also called for an increase in the number of signatures needed to leave port for the sea from 13 to 17 for the “autumn” fishing season from August to October.
Authorities also issued a special warning that boats captured with students on board as seasonal labor for the fall fishing season would be confiscated. Anyone caught in such a scheme would be banned from entering the sea for a year or – in serious cases – face criminal penalties, the source said.
The source said that the State Emergency Anti-Epidemic Command also believes that the North Pyongan Province branch of the Ministry of State Security is “a unit wreaking havoc in quarantine efforts and poor discipline in maritime surveillance”. As a result, he decided to report his compiled investigation findings directly to the organization department at the Ministry of State Security headquarters in Pyongyang.
Many North Koreans now fear that the case will encourage authorities to step up their surveillance of maritime activities, the source said.
“People working in the fishing industry are concerned that once Pyongyang determines what happened here, maritime surveillance regulations will be stepped up not only in the Yellow Sea, but in all the country’s seas,” did he declare.