North Korea has been attacking users of Chinese cell phones in the border region since the start of the year. The National Security Agency has adopted a twin-pronged approach, widening the scope of signal jamming on the one hand but also simultaneously establishing set areas without jamming on the other, so as to encourage the making of calls which can then be detected and the perpetrators arrested.
A North Hamkyung Province source informed Daily NK today, “The National Security Agency is trying to scare people by telling them they are jamming calls, and that if you are caught secretly using cell phones you will be severely punished. So, using a phone is itself not simple right now.”
“North Hamkyung Province NSA has formed an inspection unit which is cracking down in every area,” he added, claiming that there is now six to eight people in each city and county in the province dispatched by the provincial NSA in Chongjin to lead the work.
The source went on, “One NSA inspection unit has been in Musan County arresting cell phone users since early March. Unlike the act of blocking all calls immediately after Kim Jong Il’s death, the authorities are now permitting calls to connect so that they can track down users and arrest them.”
On March 9th, one broker who was trying to connect a call between a North Korean defector in South Korea and her daughter in the North was apparently caught in this very trap.
“People who are just a little off guard when making calls can be caught like this,” the source said, urging Daily NK to cover the story as quickly as possible to avoid further arrests. “News of this trap must be made common knowledge so that those in the South can inform people in the North.”
In addition, “The inspection units are also targeting NSA agents and radio detection and location inspectors to check for internal corruption. They are investigating by multiple routes to discover whether agents in a given area are accepting bribes to facilitate the making of calls.”
Even those caught in the past are subject to being re-arrested, he also noted, saying, “This past 8th a person who was once caught making a call but was released after paying a one million won fine was called back in to write a statement and then released again. The NSA agents who used to tell me about cases are so busy with this crackdown that I can’t even see them.”
The authorities are employing other methods to entrap people, too. “I don’t know if it actually works, but the inspection units are using a radio detector and a truck to search for users house-to-house, and are approaching people suspected of having family in South Korea, telling them that they are brokers and are willing to help them make phone calls,” the source explained.