New Technology Employed to Track Intl. Calls

Image: Yonhap News Agency

North Korea has employed new state-of-the-art
devices in order to increase the efficacy of mobile monitoring and detection to preclude
information from leaking outside of its borders. Most importantly, however, the
new system will strengthen already stringent punishments for those caught making overseas phone calls, a strictly illegal practice under North Korean law.

“Penalties for those who made international
phone calls has intensified,” a source from Musan County, North Hamkyung
Province informed Daily NK on March 5th. “First-time offenders will face
‘strict warnings’ according to the new regulations and be slapped with fines;
those caught a second time will be sentenced to at least a year of manual labor as punishment for their transgressions.”

“County Ministry of People’s Security [MPS] officials have been announcing these new regulations at regional inminban
[people’s unit] and state-run enterprises,” he said. “They’ve threatened that
anyone making secret phone calls will inevitably be caught due to the
highly-developed voice recording technology these new devices possess–even able to save records of both the
content of the conversation and the speakers’ voices.”  

30 residents have already been caught in
the wake of the crackdowns. “The number of people caught for placing international phone calls has amounted to thirty since the
proclamation of these heightened penalties,” the source explained, adding that if repeat offenders are detected they will surely be sent to re-education camps and touted as examples of the new measure’s severity. 

This move is the latest in the perpetual
battle waged by the North Korean authorities to stamp out illegal cell phone
use among residents and residents devising myriad ways to evade the
regulations. As previously reported by Daily NK, expensive German-produced
radio wave detectors were employed in specific border regions, replacing
cheaper Chinese detection devices, to block residents from making outside phone
calls. However, the scope of this measure has increased exponentially,
with these German contraptions replacing the antiquated Chinese-manufactured
versions in all border areas, according to the source.

“Until last year, we could head into the
hills of nearby villages to make phone calls, but now we’ve got to trek deep
into the mountains for at least three hours just to make an outside call,” he
said. “But now we have to walk deep into the mountains for
about three hours in order to make a call. As a result, the price for renting
[Chinese-manufactured] mobile phones has seen a fourfold rise, increasing from
40,000 KPW [5 USD] to about 100 RMB.”

Predictably, disaffected residents voice
continual criticism of a state that seeks to detain its citizens rather than
try to improve their lives. The source, reflecting sentiments he stated as emblematic of the majority of the population, explained that this recent measure will only exacerbate an already pervasive bribe culture. “People sarcastically point out that ten guards aren’t enough to ward off even one thief–everyone will just develop new ways to evade the crackdowns,” he concluded.