Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Running (the country) scared

We already have news that the Pyongyang regime, like its benefactors in Beijing, is very nervous that everyday North Koreans are going to find out about the Jasmine Revolution that is irrevocably changing the face of the Middle East.

Simply put, the North Korean government does not want the P in DPRK to find out that people in Tunisia and Egypt have successfully banded together to oust leaders that have been in power for decades, or that folks in Libya have taken up arms against long-time leader Moammar Gaddafi. It's serious enough that they told North Korean workers in Libya — who are in harm's way — to stay right where they are and not to come back to North Korea and spread the information contagion.

And now we get news that, as part of that mini Great Firewall, the North Korean authorities are rounding up illegal cell phones.

From AFP:
North Korea has started a drive to confiscate mobile phones smuggled from China in an attempt to suppress news from the outside world, a group of defectors from the communist state said.

North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity said in its latest newsletter police in North Hamkyong and Yangkang provinces bordering Russia and China have started urging residents to voluntarily surrender mobile phones or face punishment.

It cited sources in the border cities of Hyesan and Hoeryong.

Probably a legal phone.
The police warned that special devices to detect mobile phone use had been brought in to punish "those spreading capitalist ideas and eroding socialism", the group quoted one of the sources as saying.

North Korea strictly controls access to outside information and fixes the tuning controls of radios and televisions to official stations.

But many residents in border areas that can receive mobile reception from China are known to use smuggled phones to talk to relatives and friends who escaped the impoverished state to settle in China or South Korea.

At present users restrict conversations to five minutes, the minimum time authorities need to trace a call, said the source.
Such crackdowns are not new, by the way.

Anyhow, I wonder how true that is the police they can detect cell phones. Do they have to be on in order to detect them? I hope it's not Apple's Find My iPhone service.

As usual, whenever I talk about North Korea and mobile phone service, I must include a link to the list of North Korean emoticons.

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