North Korea is sending the families of defectors to remote internment camps near the border with China. A source on Wednesday said the State Security Department has set a target of exiling all families of defectors to collective villages before April 15 and has started executing the plan.
The measure apparently targets only family members of North Koreans who defected after leader Kim Jong-un came to power in 2012.
Since January last year, North Korea has been cracking down on defectors. Over the past two years, more than 3,000 defected to South Korea.
The source said hundreds of households in Pyongyang have been sent into internal exile in remote provinces, and an even larger number of people from North Hamgyong and Ryanggang provinces along the border with China.
The camps are in mountainous areas where temperatures dip to -20 degrees Celsius in winter.
The more draconian measures are seen as a harbinger of worse to come. Recently, the regime dispatched 200 security agents to North Hamgyong and Ryanggang provinces to search for people who have aided defectors.