Kim Jong Un emphasizes strict ban on Chinese mobile phones

Kim Chae Hwan  |  2017-02-17 16:50
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Kim Jong Un has issued new instructions to severely punish those caught using Chinese mobile phones to place calls outside of the country. The orders are in clear contradiction to an earlier order he recently issued after dismissing Kim Won Hong (former head of the State Security Department), stipulating that human rights violations were to cease.

"Following the purge of a number of officials from the State Security Department (SSD), the surveillance and monitoring of residents has actually increased. The regime is ramping up efforts to arrest users of Chinese mobile phones, which can be used to access outside information and facilitate defections,” a source in Ryanggang Province told Daily NK on February 12.

"In particular, the order specifies to 'more strongly punish and torture the primary users of Chinese phones' as a tough countermeasure. It seems that the regime is still pursuing a strategy of fearpolitik, using punishments to clamp down on phone calls to the outside world.”

The source explained that despite recent orders to abolish human rights violations carried out by the SSD, longstanding methods like torture to interrogate users of Chinese-made mobile phones are likely to continue unabated. “The regime has long used these methods to maintain its control over the population, so it will be difficult for it to maintain control without using them," the source noted.

The regime recently purged Kim Won Hong and issued orders to "eradicate torture and violence," blaming the SSD for harsh punishments in an attempt to sooth the population. But it has now made clear that these measures will not be applied for users of Chinese mobile phones.

Indeed, punishment for Chinese mobile phone users has intensified. Kim Jong Un issued explicit orders for those caught to be executed as “traitors who conspire with the South Korean puppet government.” This is in addition to further orders to immediately shoot those attempting to defect, indicative of the regime’s paranoia in further sealing off the country’s borders to stem the freeflow of information.

"Chinese mobile phones are helping people realize the regime’s propaganda is false by granting access to external information. It seems that the authorities believe that information blockade is essential to maintain the regime," a source in North Hamgyong Province explained.

"The authorities believe that defections can be halted if residents are unable to communicate with the outside world. Therefore, the punishment of Chinese mobile phone users is expected to become more severe.”

However, it remains unclear how effective this policy will be in maintaining control over the population. The deeply intertwined relationship between the residents and the SSD personnel poses serious challenges for the Kim Jong Un regime.

"The users of Chinese mobile phones often have close relationships with the security agents. The agents even provide information on how to avoid crackdowns in exchange for a bribe. Therefore, it will be impossible for the regime to succeed in completely rooting out the use of Chinese phones," a source in North Pyongan Province concluded.

*Translated by Yejie Kim
*Edited by Lee Farrand

 
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2017.01.26
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