Chinese public service notices regarding North Korea are posted last year next to a military outpost on the Yalu River across from North Korea in Dandong, China's largest border city with North Korea. State security agents are reportedly cracking down on residents with relatives in the South. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo
SEOUL, July 5 (UPI) -- North Korea's state security department rounded up 300 people for ties to defectors in the South, but the state could be fabricating the reason for the arrests.
A source in North Korea told Radio Free Asia the state arrested 300 residents after alleged investigations into a North Korean "money broker" uncovered records of families receiving funds from resettled defectors in the South.
"The state security department openly threatened those who have family members who defected and those who are selling state secrets to the South for money, and gave them a deadline of one week to surrender themselves," the source in North Korea said.
When no one turned themselves in Pyongyang's agents began to make arrests in the border regions, targeting Onsong County residents in North Hamgyong Province.
About 30 people were arrested on the first day of the crackdown, in the cities of Hoeryong, Chongjin and Setbyol County, according to the source who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Those arrested could be undergoing torture and being interrogated for other crimes.
"Those who were arrested first have family in the South and who have been receiving assistance from their overseas relatives," the source said, adding those who could not bear interrogation under torture are confessing, which is leading to more arrests.
But the state's reason for the arrests could be a fabrication.
According to RFA, remittance brokers do not leave records of transferred funds in their homes or elsewhere, for fear of being apprehended, but the state has said the arrests are being made on the evidence uncovered at the home of a North Korean woman who defected after working as a broker.
Brokers in North Korea and China are border runners who use Chinese mobile phones to complete wire transactions between the two Koreas.
The Kim Jong Un regime is sensitive to the issue of defectors and has heightened security along the China border since 2015 to discourage people from leaving.