Crackdown targets messaging app users

Kim Chae Hwan  |  2016-06-07 00:45
Read in Korean  

North Korean users of foreign messenger applications such as Kakao Talk, Line, and WeChat will be arrested on the spot on suspicion of espionage, according to a new order handed down from the authorities. Sources inside the country interpret the move as Kim Jong Un's aggressive reaction to the capability of Chinese cellphones to facilitate the import and export of information into the isolated country. 

As recently reported by Daily NK, the North Korean authorities have ramped up efforts to label Chinese cellphone users as traitors and pursuing strict punishments against them. To this end, North Korean authorities doubled down on the use of signal detectors to trace illicit international calls and zero in on the location of foreign phone users. 

However, the messenger apps allow users to circumvent detection by this equipment, prompting the regime to respond with new threats specifically targeting users of these communication applications.

A measure has been enacted that orders the immediate arrest of traitorous residents who use foreign messenger applications. The regime further threatened that those caught will not be offered clemency under any condition, a source in Ryanggang Province told Daily NK on June 2.

Offenders who are apprehended will be processed according to the discretion of the arresting agency-- i.e. the State Security Department or the Ministry of Peoples Security. Those taken in will be charged with espionage associating with the enemy and dispatched to a political prison camp.   

According to the source, the regime first began showing interest in foreign messenger apps in May 2014. At the time, residents who continuously used Chinese cellphones were arrested, and through the course of the investigation process, the authorities discovered that information was being sent back and forth through apps such as the South Korean texting service Kakao Talk.

At that time, the authorities decided to define such activity as espionage and handed down an order to strictly punish offenders, he said.

The crackdown on messenger services therefore strengthened from that moment on. The South Korean service Line and the Chinese service WeChat also became targets of surveillance at that point.

These days, Line and Kakao Talk are explicitly mentioned in lectures [routinely delivered to residents by the authorities]. Thats how serious the crackdown has become, a separate source in Ryanggang Province said.

This, he went on to say, is unprecedented--hitherto, there had been no mention of foreign cell phone applications at official lectures. Such a proactive measure reveals Kim Jong Uns acute awareness of the adverse effects foreign information and defections pose to the stability of the regime, further highlighted by his blustery accusation that South Korea kidnapped 13 North Korean restaurant workers who recently escaped their posts in China and fled to seek asylum in the South.

*Translated by Jonathan Corrado

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