Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Mobile Phone Communication with North Korea: Current Status

An article in today's Korea Times provides some very interesting specifics about how North Korean refugees in South Korea communicate with people in North Korea by mobile phone.  Seo, Jae-pyong, the Secretary-General of a group called North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity (NKIS) said that NKIS has run a news outlet service based on mobile phone conversations with secret correspondents in North Korea since 2008.  The purpose of this effort is to provide more information about the reclusive nation.  The NKIS provided the stringers with cell phones that have an international roaming service. International phone rates between South Korea and China are applied when North Koreans call NKIS people.  Although he declined to give information about how much the stringers are paid, the NKIS representative said that their allowances are high enough to feed their families.  He also said that "When we have conversations with people, especially from the border area between North Korea and China, we hear them as clearly as our phone conversations with our colleagues in South Korea."  Mr. Seo, an engineer, escaped from North Korea in 2001.  Out of approximately 20,000 North Korean refugees that have settled in South Korea from the 1990s, about 600 are college graduates.  About 300 of these educated people have joined NKIS to let people outside North Korea know more about it.
Seo also said that North Koreans can access the latest South Korean television dramas at home without much difficulty, despite the government's strict ban on the circulation of South Korean cultural products.   Two or three weeks after airing in the South, these dramas are copied onto CDs in China, and then these CDs are sold to distributors who deal with the North Koreans.

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