No Pyongyang Spring

You may not believe that Kim Jong Un learned to drive at age three, but he has managed to perform one miracle — making North Koreans long for the libertine halcyon era of Kim Jong Il:

The ‘Dear Leader’ Kim Jong Il’s sudden death in December of last year brought a tighter grip across the border.  Going even further, Kim Jong Un ordered a “guilt by association” system, which is a collective execution system which aims to terminate the entire family of anyone who has attempted defection. Also, 20,000 additional soldiers were dispatched along the border region to tighten security in the area. Immediate execution of anyone caught attempting to defect was ordered as well. On December 31st, 3 men crossing the river in Hyesan, Yanggang province were executed by firing squad and a couple in their 40s attempting defection in Hoiryoung, Hamkyung Buk-do were executed as well. Clearly, there are unspeakable atrocities happening as the noose is tightened around the Chinese/North Korean border.  [Open News]

Separately, Open News reports that this may be a case of horse / barn door.  The regime is trying to regain control of the movement of people, information, and money by tightening border controls, cracking down on illegal cell phones (with the help of trackers purchased from German suppliers), putting new restrictions on market trading, and sending students to labor in the fields.  Yet so much outside information has already entered North Korea that it has fundamentally altered the world view of much of the population, especially the younger generations.  It’s almost impossible for poor North Koreans to cross illegally now, but the smugglers, who have the means to pay bribes, can still get their wares through to meet the high demand for outside goods and information.