North Korea is reportedly rounding up mobile phones to prevent citizens from fleeing the state.
Pyongyang has ordered the State Security Department (SSD) to probe volatile border regions, particularly those devastated by recent flooding, and seize any and all mobile phones, reports Daily NK.
“An order to apprehend every last user of Chinese mobile phones in the border region was issued in early October,” a source in North Hamgyong Province told reporters. Provincial security agents and signal detection units have teamed up to track down and arrest users.
Possession of a mobile phone is illegal in North Korea, and is treasonous to have one. Despite the best efforts of the repressive Kim regime, Chinese cell phones have made their way into North Korea in large numbers. Chinese signals reach across the border, making it possible for people to make phone calls near the line.
The state has made crackdown attempts in the past; however, the effectiveness of these campaigns was limited. Enforcers often granted leniency for bribes. This time around, security personnel have been sternly warned against taking bribes.
Pyongyang is approaching this situation aggressively. Severe flooding knocked out a number of border patrol outposts in August. Furthermore, the state’s inadequate response to the flooding has triggered a surge in discontent and dissatisfaction with the Kim regime.
Kim Jong Un is hesitant to visit the disaster zones because he is concerned that a disgruntled dissenter will assassinate him. The possibility of mass defections in these damaged regions is high.
The SSD has supposedly sent out 10 operational units that work 24-hour shifts. They work out of vehicles equipped with tracking and monitoring devices. When a signal is detected, agents raid the the site where the signal originated. The security officers are reportedly arresting violators to demonstrate that illicit mobile phone use will not be tolerated.
“If the current pace of surveillance and arrests continues, more than 90 percent of mobile phone users are expected to disappear,” Daily NK’s inside source revealed.
People are reportedly terrified of the new anti-phone campaign. They are burying their phones or simply burning them in furnaces to avoid punishment.
Defections are often orchestrated through a series of phone calls to middle men in China, and are thus essential. Defectors who make it out also use mobile phones to contact family in North Korea, as well as send money back home.
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