New Devices Catch Illicit Phone Calls

Choi Song Min  |  2014-11-12 16:21
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The North Korean authorities have installed a series of German-produced radio wave detectors along the border areas to monitor and block residents from making phone calls with people in other countries. The Daily NK has learned that by using the new devices near borders areas where phone reception can be detected, the authorities have been tapping phones and tracking down the call locations.  

It has become very difficult to make mobile phone calls from the North Korea-China border area, a source in North Hamkyung Province told the Daily NK on Tuesday. Security officials have set up high-tech frequency tracking devices here and there along the border and are listening in on phone calls.

A five-minute conversation allows them to pick up the location and content of the call, so people get caught by patrol teams carrying out investigations, he explained. Before they come, the caller needs to hang up and relocate, which is why its hard to get calls out.

The new detectors, managed by the department overseeing wiretapping and frequency control at provincial security units, have been set up in multiple locations, with mobile patrol teams on standby ready to catch people in the act.

In the past, a lone device manufactured in China would be set up in densely populated locations, or officials would use hand-held signal detectors that are easily carried like bags. Recently however, even small detection guard posts in remote mountainous areas, a great distance from any residential area, aid in the crackdown on residents headed there to make illicit international phone calls, most often to relatives in South Korea.

According to the source, starting late last year the State Security Department [SSD] purchased Chinese-manufactured frequency detectors through the Hyoksin Trade Company" and Sinheung Trade Company as part efforts to thwart residents from making calls to the outside world. However, unable to produce the intended results, the devices have been replaced with products from Germany, giving the SSD a broader range and quality of monitoring to secure details of the conversation.

I believe the latest equipment can pick up all signals within a 500m radius, the source said, adding, Residents say there are ten installed in Onseong County alone.

He went on explain that within each company of border control forces, mobile platoons, specifically tasked with search and patrol, have formed. They usually patrol areas at night and mostly rest during the day. When phone calls are detected, they launch unexpected inspections in the area," he explained.

Kim Jong Euns era has seen increased efforts to wipe out illicit phone calls, believing them to be the root source of information leakage and aiding in illegal river-crossing to escape the country. The latest installation of frequency detectors supports a larger framework aimed at blocking information going in and out of the country.

These new devices may not prove effective for long, the source pointed out, Now that residents are able to identify the detection posts, theyll likely just move beyond the 500m range to make calls, once again rendering the devices useless.

*Translated by Jiyeon Lee

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