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N. Korean border guard and smuggler arrested for using Chinese cell phone

In mid-April, an inspection team from the central government arrested a border guard and smuggler on suspicion of using Chinese cell phones to communicate with the outside world, Daily NK has learned. 

On Apr. 30, a source in Yanggang Province told Daily NK that “a soldier in his early 20s in a border patrol unit and a smuggler in her early 50s were suddenly arrested by the provincial branch of the Ministry of State of Security in Kimjongsuk County on Apr. 17. The two were arrested by members of the central government’s non-socialist and anti-socialist unified command’s border region emergency inspection team, so it’s likely they’ll be harshly punished.”

According to the source, the pair had been secretly using a Chinese cell phone to communicate with the outside world while conducting operations. The two people began smuggling operations as soon as they sensed pandemic border controls relaxing and relations with China improving.

The pair paid off members of the provincial office of the Ministry of State Security, allowing them to operate comfortably for a time. However, they were ultimately caught during a surprise inspection when an emergency inspection team sent from Pyongyang picked up their signal using cars outfitted with signal detection gear and other electric wave detection equipment.

“After re-opening the borders, [the regime] has been consistently attacking use of Chinese cell phones, but the issue persisted, leading Kim Yo Jong to directly issue an order to root out collaboration between the military and civilians along the border, smuggling and illegal border crossings, and defections,” the source said. “[The inspection team] warned that they would not be looking the other way [for anyone] this time around, so the investigation into the pair is likely to proceed quickly and result in harsh punishments.”

The government views people who use Chinese cell phones as being involved in the consumption and distribution of foreign media since the phones are considered a major channel for bringing outside media into the country. The “Anti-Reactionary Thought Law” adopted in December 2020 stipulates heavy punishments for consuming and distributing foreign media, so the pair are likely to face steep legal penalties for using Chinese cell phones in their smuggling activities.

That being said, Daily NK’s source said that recently, the regime appears to be relaxing punishments for simply consuming foreign media. The “Anti-Reactionary Thought Law” helped to create an atmosphere of fear among North Koreans, which has led to speculation that the government could be pivoting toward a more conciliatory approach to consumers of foreign media. 

“In the past, repeat offenders were exiled without exception, but now they say [exile] is reserved for people who have been caught at least three times. Overall, the harshness of punishment [for viewing foreign media] appears to have gone down quite a lot,” the source explained. 

“However, in cases in which the offender has a degree of public influence, the viciousness of public hearings and shamings for watching foreign videos has increased [to make an example of these individuals]. If teachers are caught, they are criticized at ideological struggle sessions or sometimes forced to do uncompensated labor, but they keep their positions.

“Surprise inspections by the central government authorities are carried out once or twice a quarter in the China-North Korea border area. It’s hard to know where or when the inspections take place, so there’s a challenge in even knowing how many people have been caught in these inspections.”

Translated by Rose Adams. Edited by Robert Lauler. 

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 03, 2024 at 12:00PM

by DailyNK(North Korean Media)

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