• North Korea has been building a wall on its border with Communist cousin China.
  • When it realised it was behind schedule, it started conscripting married women as labourers, reports Radio Free Asia.
  • North Koreans were upset with the forced labour, saying the border wall will be "useless," sources told Radio Free Asia.
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North Korea, unable to meet a deadline for building a wall along its border with China, has turned to forcing married women to make cement blocks for construction, Radio Free Asia reported on Monday.

The regime wants to finish a two-meter high wall with voltage wiring in the province of Ryanggang by October 10, its Party Founding Day, reports Radio Free Asia, a US-backed nonprofit news site.

North Korea initially planned to use military and youth personnel as labourers, but anonymous sources in the province told Radio Free Asia that authorities realised they needed more manpower to complete the wall on time. As a result, it ordered married women in the area, as young as those in their 20s and as old as those in their 60s, to start producing 10 blocks of cement a day for the wall until Party Founding Day, the report said.

Labour conscription is common in North Korea, but this one has sparked the ire of residents in the area, said Radio Free Asia's sources.

"People complain that the authorities are making frail old women in their 60s to do hard labour," a source told Radio Free Asia.

"The people are critical of the authorities, saying: 'Even in this severe coronavirus emergency, people still cross the river, risking their lives to smuggle. Even if they build the wall, could that possibly stop people from finding a way to cross the river?'" the source added.

Another source told Radio Free Asia that some of the women roped in for the effort are upset about being forced to work, complaining that the wall would be "useless" because smugglers always find ways to get across the border.

North Korea's hardline border control

North Korea shares an 880-mile (1,416-kilometre) border with China. The neighbours are separated by two rivers - the Tumen and the Yalu.

The Yalu river crossing is narrowest at Ryanggang province's largest city of Hyesan, where the wall is being built. It's a common area for smuggling anything from food to television sets to recording devices, reported Seoul-based news site Daily NK.

Smuggling activity has intensified in the region ever since North Korea shut its borders in early 2020, when concerns of the Cocis-19 pandemic started to grow.

The dictatorship has been ailing from a "great" pandemic crisis and a food shortage that has seen prices skyrocket, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un admitted this year.

The wall in Ryanggang is just another of the country's hardline measures to protect its boundaries.

Since closing its borders, North Korea has bumped up security in the province, bringing in special forces to help guard the border, Daily NK reported in June. On top of that, the regime already issued shoot-to-kill orders on anyone illegally crossing the border and deployed land mines there in 2020.

Now, North Korean authorities want the Ryanggang wall to be completed before Party Founding Day so they can revamp their border patrols and recall their special forces for winter training, reported Daily NK.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the river, China has also been reinforcing its border with North Korea over the last few years, establishing a military base southwest of Ryanggang, reported Forbes.

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