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Chongjin intensifies street-level inspections of mobile phones

Mobile phone inspections and body searches of young residents of Chongjin have recently become more intense than ever. North Korean authorities appear to be stepping up their campaign to block the influx and adoption of foreign culture, which they see as a threat to the regime.

“Groups of street enforcers organized by the Chongjin branch of the Socialist Patriotic Youth League have been inspecting the mobile phones of young people they see on the streets since May 6. All young people are forced to undergo the inspections, without exception,” a source in North Hamgyong Province told Daily NK on Tuesday, speaking on condition of anonymity. 

Whereas the street enforcers used to focus their attention on young people who wore disheveled clothes or forgot to wear Kim family pins on their lapels, they now stop every young person they encounter on the street, the source said.

If nothing problematic is found on their phones, the young people are allowed to pass without incident, but the discovery of a single word or expression of South Korean origin is enough to land the individual in hot water – and possibly legal consequences, depending on the severity of the problem.

“North Koreans have had to sit through a mind-numbing number of lectures on preserving the ‘Pyongyang cultural language’ [the standard North Korean dialect] and not using the language of the ‘puppets’ [in South Korea], and another series of lectures was held in every social organization earlier this month. Anyone caught by the monitors is immediately sent to a labor camp and subjected to all kinds of drudgery,” the source said.

“Young people feel that the current street checks are worse than anything they’ve seen in movies about the Japanese colonial period. Since there is nothing illegal about having a cell phone, they object that the government shouldn’t have sold the phones in the first place if it was going to be so strict with these inspections,” he added.

Young people are also annoyed by the fact that during the mobile phone inspections, the street enforcers question their outfits, hairstyles and lack of lapel pins, and also go overboard in frisking young people, ostensibly to see if they are hiding storage devices with illegal videos.

“During the search for USB sticks, the street enforcers not only run their hands through people’s pockets, but also all over their bodies,” the source said.

Women stopped and frisked at will

As an example, the source cited a pair of young women in their twenties in Chongjin who encountered street enforcers checking cell phones on the afternoon of May 11.

The monitors spent about 15 minutes inspecting the two women’s cell phones, looking for foreign songs or videos and making sure there were no South Korean phrases in the text history.

The enforcers then had the women raise their arms so they could run their hands along the sides of their breasts to see if any SD cards or USB sticks were hidden in their bras. The enforcers also ordered the women to jump as high as they could.

But in the end, nothing was found, so the enforcers let the women go.

“Young people already know more songs from South Korea than from here [in North Korea], and when they hang out they listen to South Korean songs and dance in the South Korean style, despite the intensifying crackdown. If the government continues to tighten the screws to eradicate the foreign culture already being enjoyed by young people, it will just increase their resentment and opposition to the state,” the source said.

Daily NK works with a network of sources living in North Korea, China, and elsewhere. Their identities remain anonymous for security reasons. For more information about Daily NK’s network of reporting partners and information-gathering activities, please visit our FAQ page here.

Please send any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

Read in Korean

May 23, 2024 at 07:00AM

by DailyNK(North Korean Media)

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