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Source: North Korean family escaped on Kim Il Sung's birthday

Increased border security under Kim Jong Un hasn’t stopped defections.

By Elizabeth Shim
Source: North Korean family escaped on Kim Il Sung's birthday
A North Korean woman rides a bike on the banks of the Yalu River near Sinuiju, across the Yalu River from Dandong, China's largest border city with North Korea. North Koreans continue to flee the country despite state attempts to block defections. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

SEOUL, April 20 (UPI) -- A family of seven escaped from North Korea on Kim Il Sung's birthday anniversary Friday, a source in the country said.

The family managed to flee despite increased border controls during the week leading up to the annual event, known as the "Day of the Sun" in North Korea, Radio Free Asia reported.

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Defections continue to take place despite stricter border controls being enforced under Kim Jong Un. Guards are being overworked and complaining of fatigue, the source said.

In 2015, North Korea blocked wireless signals along the China border, in an attempt to prevent mobile phones operating on Chinese memory chips from receiving calls.

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The state has also built walls to make defections more difficult.

According to the source in North Hamgyong Province, the State Security Department of North Korea issued an emergency decree that blocked local and mountain roads in the border regions.

Those additional measures, however, haven't stopped defections from taking place, the source said.

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The family defection is under investigation.

"If China recognized defectors as refugees, not one person would stay behind in the North," the source said.

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North Korea is also strengthening surveillance of its overseas workers in the wake of a group defection that took place in China.

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The defectors, a man and 12 women, had fled from a North Korean restaurant in the Chinese city of Ningbo, near Shanghai, and arrived in South Korea in April.

The incident has caused North Korea to step up media campaigns against the South.

On Wednesday, Japan-based pro-North Korea news outlet Choson Sinbo issued a statement the group defection was an operation of South Korea's National Intelligence Service.

The Choson Sinbo stated a North Korean restaurant manager, Heo Gang Il, was responsible for collaborating with Seoul's spy agency, and that South Korea took advantage of Heo's financial situation to organize the kidnapping.

Heo owed money to the Chinese proprietor of the restaurant, according to the Choson.

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