Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Use of Chinese Mobile Communication Services in North Korea

An article in yesterday's English edition of the Chosun Ilbo outlined a new crackdown by the North Korean government on defectors.   It contained interesting detail on how the government places defectors into three categories, with the harshest punishment dealt to those  who had entered foreign embassies or taken similar action to get to South Korea, or who had converted to Christianity.  Of particular interest to me was the detail contained in the article about those found trying to use Chinese mobile phone services.  The article notes that they are subject to the level of punishment reserved for defectors and taken to the Chongori reeducation center in North Hamgyong Province, a center which has reportedly been reorganized to deliver harsh, concentration-camp approach to punishment.
Since 2003, when mobile telephone traffic increased in the areas near the North Korea-China border, China has built many signal towers there. As a result, communications, which had been possible only in some mountains near the border, is now possible in nearly all urban areas in North Korea including Sinuiju close to the border. But North Korea is cracking down on Chinese mobile phone carriers because they could help smuggle out information and encourage defection. It has reportedly recently launched an around-the-clock watch, providing all security guards in the border areas with portable radars. Any mobile phone carrier would see a security guard vehicle arrive immediately if they engaged in a phone conversation for more than five minutes, so they are safe to use phones if they do so in the mountains, where they do not need to worry about being caught by security guards.

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