North Koreans ‘fear execution’ after forest fire near main Kim Jong-un missile base

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The blaze broke out on a hillside close to the Chinese border and the culprits will likely be “quietly dealt with”. Local residents, forced to evacuate their hillside homes, were also encouraged to help tackle the fire by authorities manning a vehicle with a loudspeaker.

“Trees planted eight years ago as well as ones planted last year were reduced to ashes in the blink of an eye,” a source told Daily NK, a North Korean news platform based in Seoul.

Conservation specialists, tasked with preventing forest fires, “have had to run around desperately to escape responsibility for botching a major national effort”.

A high ranking forestry specialist could be punished alongside the culprits.

Cholsan County, in the country’s northwest, is home to North Korea’s No. 2 missile launch site and testing facility, along with major air force bases.

There are fears those responsible for the fire on November 10 “will pay with their lives regardless of whether the blaze was intentional or a mistake”.

The culprits will likely be dealt with in secret, a military source said.

“Since the rocket [missile] base wasn’t damaged, the leadership could conclude the matter by punishing the main culprit[s] and a high-ranking cadre,” they added.

“But it’s also fully possible that stern punishment will be handed down [to other people as well] since a facility the state regards as important could have been destroyed due to a single mistake.”

Failure to manage the fire in such an important location “would also become a big issue.”

On November 2, a gymnast in his late 20s defected from North Korea after vaulting a 12 foot barbed wire fence.

The daring bid for freedom comes as Kim Jong-un increases surveillance on his citizens.

The man, spotted “loitering” about a mile south of the border by South Korean forces using a thermal observation device, climbed an iron pole to assist him.

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He told authorities he is a former gymnast and this helped aid his escape.

Kim Jong-un has ordered spies to infiltrate defectors living overseas.

The Ministry of State Security, the nation’s secret police agency, has been ordered to capture “fugitives” and those who assist their escape, known as “brokers”.

Alerted officials are based in embassies abroad, such as Russia and China.
Located defectors face interrogation and jail.

North Korea has also installed spy equipment to crack down on calls made internationally by its citizens taking advantage of Chinese phone masts close to the border.

Illegal overseas calls used WeChat, an application used in China which is similar to Whatsapp.

But their latest spy technology can infiltrate the app, leaving law-breaking citizens at risk.

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