It’s been a couple of weeks now since Kim Jong-il died and his son, Kim Jong-un, took over. Reports are now beginning to filter out through the normal defector reporting networks about changes in North Korean policies during the transition.
While the defector networks are hardly free from bias, recent reporting indicates the regime is cracking down sharply on defectors. NK border guards have reportedly been given orders authorizing them to shoot those attempting to defect, while state media, which had previously ignored or downplayed defection, has begun publicizing the punishment that awaits those attempting to flee the country.
According to the story, the North’s policy of ‘three-generation punishment’ has been extended to defectors and their families. Meaning, if someone attempts to defect, three generations of their family will be executed, or perhaps sent to a labor camp (which is often a death sentence in its own right). This policy has long been used for political crimes (for insight read Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag, about a young boy forced to come of age in a labor camp after his grandfather made some anti-regime comments) and an extension of this policy to the ‘crime’ of defection would be an ominous sign, both for the defectors and for the direction the regime is heading under its new leadership.