As part of tireless efforts by the North Korean authorities
to keep domestic information tightly locked within the nation’s borders–as
well as preventing any “anti-socialist” information from trickling in–the
state has stepped up regulations on mobile phone practices of Chinese traders
operating within the country.
“The North Korean authorities have recently taken measures
to prevent traders from freely using mobile phones,” an informed source in
China reported to Daily NK on the 3rd. “It’s not that mobile phones are
forbidden altogether, but just that they can only be used in specifically
She added that from the moment these traders enter North
Korea, State Security Department [SSD] officials zero in on and prohibit them
from using mobile phones—even within the confines of the customs
office. “These SSD agents waste no time in making their threats clear,
saying that they can mete out punishments as soon as anyone is caught using a
mobile phone in an undesignated location,” she asserted.
These designated areas are, unsurprisingly, extremely
limited, all part of efforts to hamper the flow of information the authorities
fear is leaking out of the country through these calls.
Then, based on these heightened restrictions, it was
surprising to learn that traders were permitted to make phone calls from within
their hotel rooms. However, upon elaboration from the source, the move proved
predictable: the authorities can tap phone calls made from isolated zones with
relative ease; trying to pinpoint calls spanning a large range of public
spaces, on the other hand, proves far more difficult, if not impossible.
On-site visits to enterprises are another acceptable
location for mobile calls under the new regulations–flanked by
SSD agents, of course– but strictly forbidden during any migration to and from
the next destination.
The threats laid out by SSD agents to these traders are far
from empty, the source went on to note, citing a recent case in which a Joseonjok [ethnic
Korean Chinese] trader was slapped with a 3,000 RMB fine for using his mobile
phone in a forbidden zone after entering North Korea. “He was abruptly
approached by a SSD official, who confiscated his phone, forced him to fill out
a report, and then demanded payment for the fine,” she explained.
Word of this incident spread rapidly among Chinese traders, of
whom many feel the North Korean authorities “should have declared a ban on the
entry of cell phones in North Korea in the first place if it’s basically going
to be forbidden anyway,” according to the source. Others, she said, “point out
that it’s better to just put up with it–you know how sensitive the North is
about information getting outside.”
Meanwhile, as previously reported by the Daily NK in April, citing
fears of information flowing in and out of the country, Kim Jong Eun personally
handed down a mandate limiting the entry of Chinese traders into the North.