[imText1]North Korea has controlled people’s use of cellular phones since the gas explosion in Yongcheon train station happened, but it is said that the control has not been effective.
On the 26th of this month, Tung Jya Min (46) in Yanji, China, said, “It is nonsense to think that the North Korean government can control people’s use of cell phones because most Chinese residents in North Korea use cell phones for their business. Moreover, I pay for several of my North Korean friends’ cell phone bills.”
According to Mr. Tung, Chinese residents in North Korea pay for their North Korean friends’ phone bills because doing that makes their business smoother and easier. Therefore, it is difficult for the North Korean government to tightly control people’s use of cell phones.
Mr. Tung added, “North Korean law enforcement officers keep control over people’s use of cell phones, but Chinese residents are exceptional. I just don’t understand why the North Korean government treats cell phones as a headache.”
The North Korean government seems to be concerned about the drain of inside information.
North Korea began a cell phone trial service in Rasun City in 2002. In November, 2002, North Korea started to broadly provide cell phone services, but since the explosion in Yongcheon train station that occurred in April, 2004, it has prohibited the use of cell phones.
The ban on using cell phones seems to still be tight in Pyongyang. Chen Wey Ming (42) visited Pyongyang last October. He said, “I’ve never seen people using cell phones in Pyongyang. I also had to leave my cell phone at the Pyongyang airport to enter the city.”
It seems difficult for the North Korean authorities to investigate the breakdown of cell phone use
It has been known that many North Korean defectors have been sending cell phones to their families remaining in North Korea.
A North Korean defector under her cover name of Choi Myeong Hee (35) said, “I sent three cell phones to my elder brother in Moosan, North Korea, one last year, and two this year. My brother said to me that he had been able to be released by giving 300 Yuan ($40) as a bribe after being caught using his cell phone. He said that when one was captured using a cell phone, he usually could be excused if he could make up a story such as the phone belonged to a Chinese resident and he had just used it because the Chinese wanted him to get certain information.”
The North Korean authorities have difficulty investigating the breakdown of cell phone use because cell phones near border line are serviced by a Chinese base station. Because the security agents are not able to figure out to whom one made a call through his cell phone, they usually excuse him with a bribe.
Ms Choi added, “However, the ban on using cell phones has not totally been removed. Safety and security agents from time to time confiscate cell phones by searching people’s houses during nighttime patrol.”
However, since the security agents are not able to obtain evidence that one has been connected to South Korea, they have to buy his invented excuse of ‘a call to China.’ In fact, the security agents’ real goal in nighttime patrol seems to be the bribes they can gather while searching people’s houses.