The North Korean authorities have been strengthening their monitoring of the use of Chinese mobile phones near the border regions. It has been recently reported that two residents of Hoeryong City (North Hamgyong Province) have been arrested for the charge.
“In early September, two residents from the Namundong and Subukdong areas of Hoeryong City were arrested on their way down from the mountain after making calls to family members in South Korea by lurking MSS (Ministry of State Security) agents,” a source in North Hamgyong Province told Daily NK on September 18.
“The residents were detected with radio wave detectors while making phone calls on a mountain near Hoeryong City. They are currently under interrogation at the Hoeryong MSS unit,” the source said.
According to the source, the interrogator is accusing them of making calls to South Korea’s NIS (National Intelligence Service), based on the fact that the recorded voice of the caller had a South Korean accent.
Fortunately, the recorded conversation revealed only discussions about livelihoods, and there were no hints of discontent toward the system. Therefore, it seems that the accused may be able to avoid severe punishment.
However, the MSS investigator has reportedly indirectly asked for bribe money, saying, “You have committed only minor crimes, so if you try a bit harder, you will be released soon.”
“As the MSS has intensified crackdowns on people making calls to the outside world (i.e., South Korea, China), there have been fewer people attempting to do so, reducing the opportunities for MSS agents to earn bribe money. The agents are said to be implicitly requesting bribes by using strong words to threaten the residents,” a separate source in North Hamgyong Province said, adding that although the MSS agents are sometimes giving leniency in exchange for bribes, it appears that the number of residents making calls to the outside world will continue to decline.
“After Kim Jong Un’s instruction to ‘root out the users of Chinese mobile phones’ was handed down last year, MSS agents are monitoring every phone conversation using German-made radio wave detectors. So making phone calls out of North Korea will get more and more difficult.”