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Firefight near Sino-DPRK border, 1 PLA soldier killed

It has been belatedly learned (thanks to KBS) that five North Koreans armed with rifles crossed the Tumen River into China’s Yonbyon region in the early morning hours of Oct. 16 and attempted to burglarize a mountainside resort villa.   The manager of the resort quietly notified the authorities, who responded by sending six of the PLA’s finest to the scene.  As the Chinese soldiers approached the resort, the North Koreans opened fire, killing a 19-year-old soldier by the name of Li Ryang.

According to witnesses, the North Koreans were wearing KPA uniforms, and are believed to have been soldiers.

After taking return fire from the Chinese, the North Koreans fled, and the resort manager and three tourists were rescued.

Although there have been burglaries committed by North Koreans in the past, this is the first reported incident of North Koreans exchanging fire with Chinese troops.

The Chinese soldier who was killed was given posthumous honors and a big funeral in his hometown province of Hunan.  A local Hunan paper covered the funeral, and it was through this report that word of the incident was learned.

Beijing is expected to intensify its crackdown on defectors and step up border patrols as a result of the shooting.

MARMOT’S NOTE: That North Korean soldiers are moonlighting as armed robbers–in China, no less–is yet more reason to question whether Pyongyang has as tight a grip on its shit as is commonly believed.  See comment by Horace Jeffery Hodges below.

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  • http://gypsyscholarship.blogspot.com/ Horace Jeffery Hodges

    Since it’s clearly not in North Korea’s interests to alienate China, we can assume that these soldiers were freelancing during their off-hours.

    That they took such a risk, however, suggests that the North Korean regime may be losing control over its soldiers, especially on its border to China.

    The soldiers can gaze across the border and see the relatively greater wealth. The temptation must be correspondingly great.

    In a nutshell, this is the problem that Kim Jong-Il faces — disparity of wealth brings corruption and loss of centralized control.

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *

  • http://kushibo.blogspot.com kushibo

    Yay! Thank you to the North Korean soldiers who are teaching Beijing the lesson that uncritically propping up the morally repulsive regime in Pyongyang is NOT in the interest of stability.

    Or wait a minute… what if this “incident” is one of those “incidents” that are used as a pretext for a land-grab.

  • http://marmot.blogs.com/korea The Marmot

    Speaking of territorial issues, see if you can track down the ICG report mentioned in this piece.

    Tried to find it at the ICG website, but no dice.

  • http://gopkorea.blogs.com/flyingyangban/ Andy (AKA: The Yangban)

    I don’t like this one bit.

    The Chinese have already been cracking down on North Korean refugees. This might provide an excuse for them to shot refugees on sight and otherwise clamp down on their escapes further.

    The only winners out of this are Kim Jong-il and Jung Dong-young, both of whom want the underground railroad of North Korean refugees to South Korea shut down.

  • http://www.princeroy.org/ Prince Roy

    any chance you could find the Chinese soldier’s name in Chinese characters? “Li Ryang” is not proper romanization and I’d like to google the guy’s name on the Chinese portals…

  • Sonagi

    Try Li Liang instead of Li Ryang. The system for writing Chinese phonetically is known as Pinyin.

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  • Frieda

    Kushibo,

    Yay?
    I am astounded at your mentality, the magnitude of cruelty and hatred embedded in your heart. You found it funny and entertaining that an inocent Chinses died protecting others during a robbery, and it is funny just because the dead person was a Chinses. It seems that a precios human life means absolutely nothing to you.

    You, Koshibo, are no diference than those who flew the plane into the WTC or the Palestinians who danced in the street afterwards.

  • Sonagi

    Frieda is right. A young soldier died defending property from thieves, and that is nothing to cheer about. NorKs coming over the border to commit violent crime also threatens innocent locals.

  • Katz

    To Frieda,

    Well, he got reason to celebrate about it compared to what they are doing in sending those poor refugees back to their country to be killed.

    It reminds me the episode of the 400 japanese tourists orgy with 500 chinese prostitutes in a hotel in China. I think that was the result for their crimes.

  • Katz

    Besides, China has authority to help these refugees. But instead she acts like an loser who is led by who are weaker and smaller than she.

  • http://kushibo.blogspot.com kushibo

    Frieda wrote:
    Kushibo,

    Yay?
    I am astounded at your mentality, the magnitude of cruelty and hatred embedded in your heart.

    Cruelty? Hatred? That’s not what you just saw. Now if I were to say to you now, “Go fu** yourself for saying I’m the same as the terrorists who flew the plane into the World Trade Center,” that might be hatred.

    But I’m guessing the hyperbole at the end was just a misguided statement and I’ll give you the opportunity to apologize.

    There is no cruelty or hatred in my heart, not toward any average Chinese person. My “Yay” was borne, as I made very clear, out of the hope that Beijing will realize that willingly participating in the murderous activities of the Pyongyang regime they’re propping up is NOT a path to stability as they have hoped. It is not the path of stability with which they have justified sending scores, hundreds, or even thousands to their deaths back in North Korea.

    I was saying “Yay” that Beijing might finally wake up to this. I was not cheering the death of any innocent person…

    You found it funny and entertaining that an inocent Chinses died protecting others during a robbery,

    Funny and entertaining? Did you even read my post beyond the first word? Have you read anything on my blog about China and human rights?

    It is not funny or entertaining when people die. It is tragic. The more innocent they are and the more unnecessary and/or avoidable their death, perhaps the more tragic.

    Now on the other hand, was this PLA soldier an “innocent”? Certainly his death may be tragic, but as a PLA soldier in the Manchurian-North Korea border region, is he an innocent?

    These are the people who enthusiastically round up North Koreans and send them back to the DPRK where they and potentially their family members will definitely be imprisoned, almost certainly be tortured, and then possibly killed.

    In other words, the PLA soldiers in China are NOT innocents by virture of what they do there. The PLA is an apparatus of state control, which means the oppression, torture, and sometimes killing of innocent Chinese, North Koreans, Tibetans, etc.

    The Chinese government often seems to care little for the lives of regular Chinese, but for members of the Party or the People’s Liberation Army, they stand up and take notice.

    China is not a lost cause; in this case the death of one of their own might make them realize they’re coddling a monster.

    and it is funny just because the dead person was a Chinses. It seems that a precios human life means absolutely nothing to you.

    Again, I would like to tell you to go fu** yourself for suggesting I’m racist against Chinese or that human life means nothing to me, but I’ll rise above that feeling and just explain a few things to you.

    I am probably one of the few people in the Korea-related blogosphere who routinely shows concern about human rights in China. I am concerned about the mini-Tiananmens and the other incidents that people like to ignore because it points to the hypocrisy of gleeful engagement with a China that is still a major violator of human rights.

    As for human life not meaning anything to me, my point is that Beijing’s policies related to North Korea — of which this incident is a DIRECT RESULT, imho — have cost MANY MORE LIVES. Precious lives of innocent people just trying to eat and feed their families, not PLA soldiers rounding them up and sending them to their deaths.

    This guy died in a robbery, we are told (and of course, if it’s coming from the Chinese press, it must be true), but these are the same people who patrol the area to round up refugees and send them back. There is no innocence there.

    You, Koshibo, are no diference than those who flew the plane into the WTC or the Palestinians who danced in the street afterwards.

    Here are a couple dozen Chinese lives that are precious to me, even if they aren’t to Beijing. How about you? Go read that and then I’ll let you take back this highly offensive statement.

  • http://kushibo.blogspot.com kushibo

    Sonagi wrote:
    Frieda is right.

    Et tu, Sonagi? So you also think I’m no different from the terrorists (or, as Marmot’s Hole Newspeak calls them, misguided individuals) who flew the airplanes into the WTC?

    That kind of hyperbole is what gets journalists threatened and sometimes killed. Thanks for the warning, Frieda, since now I’ll be sure to watch my back.

    A young soldier died defending property from thieves, and that is nothing to cheer about. NorKs coming over the border to commit violent crime also threatens innocent locals.

    Norks coming over the border is a direct result of China’s murderous culpability in propping up North Korea and actively returning its citizens so that they are left to starve and fight it out like animals (a reference from the Seoul Summit).

    It is tragic someone died, but it was the policy of the people in charge of the PLA that guy was working for that this kind of thing can even happen.

  • Sonagi

    The Chinese soldier who died was some young guy from a village. He probably had very little understanding of politics and knew nothing about North Korea beyond the lies told by the Chinese media and his superiors.

    China may be propping up North Korea, but so is the South. China sends back refugees with full blessings from the Roh government. I said this on another blog, and I’ll say it here: The one goal that unites all participants in the six-party talks is the desire to prevent an immediate collapse of North Korea. Refugees who manage to make it out of China into Mongolia or Southeast Asia are turned away from US and SK embassies.

    I don’t think Frieda was comparing you to terrorists, Kushibo, but rather the Palestinians who cheered. The terrorists in her analogy were the North Korean soldiers. The soldiers have probably tortured and killed a number of returnees and in no way can be considered heroes for crossing the border to rob.

  • Sonagi

    Reading Frieda’s post again, I see that she did compare you to the terrorists. That is ridiculous.

  • http://kushibo.blogspot.com kushibo

    Sonagi wrote:
    Reading Frieda’s post again, I see that she did compare you to the terrorists. That is ridiculous.

    Compare? She said there was “no difference” between us.

    The Chinese soldier who died was some young guy from a village. He probably had very little understanding of politics and knew nothing about North Korea beyond the lies told by the Chinese media and his superiors.

    I’m not so sure if I give the benefit of the doubt. Whether he is from a village or a city, he is a member of the PLA. PLA membership is voluntary, not compulsory like here.

    Ignorance of how one is being used as a pawn is no excuse if one is involved in such things as rounding up people and sending them back to a place like North Korea. I can’t imagine that the PLA doing that are ignorant of what is in store for those they capture.

    But since I do not know for sure that is that particular man was involved with that type of activity, despite being a PLA in the border region, I will withhold judgement. Even if he had participated, his death is tragic.

    China may be propping up North Korea, but so is the South.

    I do agree that the Roh-Chung leadership is terribly misguided by taking virtually all stick from the carrot-and-stick approach. But North Korea would be propped up with or without Seoul’s participation. It is everyone’s economic buddy China that is responsible for keeping the wheels turning in the palaces of Pyongyang.

    Refugees who manage to make it out of China into Mongolia or Southeast Asia are turned away from US and SK embassies.

    Does anyone on this blog have an accurate figure of how many NK refugees have been taken in by South Korea this year, last year, etc.? Has the number ground to a halt, is it a trickle, or is the Roh-Chung axis of weasels trying to do everything low-key so as to not offend their beneficiaries in Pyongyang (like what happened with the en masse defection through Vietnam)?

    I don’t think Frieda was comparing you to terrorists, Kushibo, but rather the Palestinians who cheered.

    You have corrected yourself on this one, so I won’t get on your case for that, but I don’t think even the second part (the comparison with the Palestinians who cheered) is valid.

    My “cheering” was that China may, from this tragedy, finally realize that their murderous support for a murderous regime is a danger to themselves (themselves meaning the Party and the PLA, as the rulers and the enforcers of Party rule), since their concern for those outside the Party and the PLA is very low. That hope stems from a desire that they will see the light and improve, and then better things will eventually come to those suffering.

    In contrast, the people who cheered the destruction of the WTC want(ed) to see the destruction of the United States. I do not wish any such thing on China or its leadership. I wish for regime transformation, something I know that Beijing is capable of, but is currently unwilling.

    The terrorists in her analogy were the North Korean soldiers. The soldiers have probably tortured and killed a number of returnees and in no way can be considered heroes for crossing the border to rob.

    Never did I suggest they were heroes. There is an outside possibility they might also be victims of the Pyongyang regime, which has isolated themselves and has caused major starvation, to the point that even the authorities in outlying areas simply can’t feed themselves.

    But that is just a possibility; it’s probably more likely that the North Koreans involved in this incident are simply thugs on both sides of the river.

  • Sonagi

    Kushibo, as always, you dissect a post line by line.

    I withraw my general agreement with Frieda. You’re no terrorist!

    However, I still feel you were out of line for thanking the Nork thugs. Incidents like this will prompt the PLA to tighten the border, making it even harder for North Koreans to escape. As I recall, the border crackdown of a few years ago was prompted by cross border crimes committed by soldiers and civilians.

  • http://kushibo.blogspot.com kushibo

    Sonagi wrote:
    Kushibo, as always, you dissect a post line by line.

    I was a biology major: dissection is what we’re good at.

    I withraw my general agreement with Frieda. You’re no terrorist!

    Thank you. And, might I add, what irony it is that I practically had to beat you up to get you to say that I’m not a terrorist. ;)

    However, I still feel you were out of line for thanking the Nork thugs.

    The “thanking” was obvious irony, I thought.

    Incidents like this will prompt the PLA to tighten the border, making it even harder for North Koreans to escape. As I recall, the border crackdown of a few years ago was prompted by cross border crimes committed by soldiers and civilians.

    That is an unfortunate thing. Very unfortunate. At the Seoul Summit on NK Human Rights, experts were telling us that, thanks to crackdowns, the time that a refugee has to find a safe haven has shrunk from an average of forty-eight hours to twenty-four hours after entering China.

    But it is my hope that Beijing, because of continuing incidents involving Pyongyang’s problems spilling over into China, will eventually realize that it is going to have to seriously step up the pressure on North Korea to make changes.

  • hardyandtiny

    Ooof! Korea and North Korea. Ooof! Over and over…never ends.

  • http://thosewhodare.blogspot.com Jing

    Was the soldier killed PLA or PAP? A lot of newspapers fail to make that observation and essentially call anyone in a green uniform a soldier.

  • http://kushibo.blogspot.com kushibo

    That’s a good question, Jing.

    Would you care to enlighten us on the difference between PLA and PAP, especially in terms of patrolling a border region like that?

  • Michael

    This episode might only be a speedbump on the way to China absorbing N.K.:

    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Korea/GL17Dg01.html

    If it is a sign of real internal instability, look for China to play a big role in determining Kim jongil’s successor. Dr. Lankov’s hedging his bets: “So, it is more likely that the Chinese will avoid political adventurism and limit themselves to gaining economic advantages in the northern part of the Korean peninsula.” Yet his whole article lays out some good arguments for China to set up “a sort of friendly dependent government,” as he put it.

  • kushibo

    Kushibo, you are full of shit. China has no obligation to help you damn Korean, because even you people in the South don’t care about your ‘northern brothers’. The more I get to know about Koreans, I more I despise them. China is a sovereign country and the border means something to us. We have every right to send back the damn dirty, smelly koreans who entered China, whether they are from the North or the South. To be, they are jsut stupid arrogant korean whose only strong points are whining, burning flags, oh, and cutting his own fingers.

  • Reverend Lovejoy

    Mr. Marmot,

    I’m sure that’s got to be some rule against posting using someone else’s handle, hmm?

  • Michael

    Yes, I have encountered this “Michael” on another threads. While it may be a common name, I am positive he is doing his best to make me look like an idiot.

  • Michael

    I love this guy “Michael” claiming that “Michael” is dogging him “on another threads” as you so eloquently put it in Konglish. At least what you write is innocuous–my first cyberstalker….

  • Michael

    Oops, double post