North Korean authorities hold lectures to plug information leaks

Soldiers along the Sino-North Korea border in Namyang, North Hamgyong Province. Image: Daily NK file photo

Officials from North Korea’s Ministry of State Security have been delivering lectures focusing on the need to combat “espionage” in cities near the Chinese border, according to sources in the border regions.

The lectures are aimed at raising awareness about the leaking of internal information abroad, and come in the wake of a recent incident involving a lost computer from a military base.

“From mid-January, the MSS has been delivering lectures aimed at getting people living in the areas bordering China to thwart espionage,” said a North Hamgyong Province-based source on Thursday. “They’re telling people to prevent the sale of North Korean-made mobile phones abroad, the leaking of internal lecture documents, and propaganda brochures into China.”

A separate source in North Hamgyong Province added, “The MSS lecturer told us that lecture-related documents were hidden in a sack of salted pine nuts late last year and almost made it into China before being intercepted.”

“We were warned that punishment would await those found guilty of infractions.”

Sources in the provinces of Ryanggang, North Hamgyong, and South Hamgyong Provvince reported that the MSS has continued to increase surveillance over those disseminating information abroad by phone, expanding the deployment of radio signal detection devices.

North Koreans are adapting in response, switching to messaging applications including KakaoTalk and LINE to prevent the North Korean authorities from listening in, according to the sources.

In October, an MSS official in the border city of Onsong was arrested after he was caught trying to sell videos and photos taken in the country, an additional source in North Hamgyong Province reported.

“The lecturer told us that traitors may act at any moment around us, so we must pay attention and be sure to report any suspicious behavior,” he said.

Some have resorted to making international calls openly on the street, because talking on the phone in private can appear more suspicious. The MSS lecturers have responded to this trend by emphasizing that people must immediately report anyone overheard speaking on a phone in a strange way, as they may simply be pretending that the phone they’re using is from North Korea (when in reality they’re making an international call on a Chinese phone).

Previously, a military computer was lost from a base near Namyang’s Workers’ District in Onsong County, sparking an investigation by the Defense Command. Residents in the border region are saying that the lectures appear to have come in response to this incident.