U.S. activist Adrian Hong, whose group Liberty in North Korea (LiNK) helps refugees gain asylum in Western countries, said a recent tour of the region left him “very worried at the moment for the people we have in our shelters.”
China has stepped up security on its border with North Korea, a move that may have represented compliance with U.N. sanctions on illicit weapons trade. But Hong said China was also fencing part of the border in a sign it might be trying to “eliminate the refugee problem by stopping refugees entirely.”
“Once those fences go up and this winter gets difficult, more people are going to try to leave,” said Hong, who talked with recent refugees in China last week and said all relayed accounts of hunger and malnutrition.
Marcus Noland, a scholar at the Institute for International Economics in Washington, said low grain output this year due to floods, appears to reflect hoarding by farmers after the state seized crops last year.
“In certain areas, it’s clear the government just sent the army in to take grain,” said Noland. History and the political structure of North Korea suggests the army will pass the pain of sanctions on to the population. “The military is going to get the resources it needs and ultimately the burden of these sanctions is going to be felt by common people,” said Noland.