Mobile Phone Detectors, Borders Blocked

Daily NK
Han Young Jin

In order to block an “open hole,” North Korean authorities have been installing mobile phone detectors on the northern border to prevent further defectors from leaving the country.

In a phone conversation with family in Hoiryeong, Kim Man Sung (55, pseudonym) a defector residing in Yangchon, Seoul discovered on the 15th “In the neighborhood of Hoiryeong, 6 mobile phone detectors have been installed” and that “if a phone call is received, the detectors activate within a minute and trace your whereabouts.”

In the past, if a person was caught being in contact with South Korea, they would receive punishment from the labor training camps and the matter was over. However, now the National Security Agency are going around saying “if you are caught using a mobile phone, you and all your family will be expelled from your village,” informed Kim. In spite of this, no one knows the make of the detectors set up along the border, nor its performance quality.

For the past 3 years Kim has acted as an intermediary for South Korean families and defectors in search of their relatives on location at the border. He said “Particularly because of intensified border controls, we are experiencing many difficulties.”

He said “Lately, whenever the police (officers from the Safety Agency) board the trains they conduct ‘fastidious inspections’ on city dwellers” and added “The Safety Agency incessantly inspects lodging facilities and motels regulating citizens that may be roaming near the border in attempt to contact their family.” It seems that the ‘fastidious inspections’ are being strictly enforced.

Since mid-December, North Korean authorities have established 5 united forces with the aim of conducting extensive control. These groups, the Party, National Security Agency, Safety Agency, prosecutors and military security will enforce action and punish boarder guards who receive bribes and help defectors.

As inspections tighten, the expenses of defectors secretly crossing to China has also increased. In the region of Hoiryeong, Musan, defecting to China would cost 400~500 yuan per person but now the disbursements have exceeded 1,000 yuan and in Haesan the price has even reached 2,000~3,000 yuan.

Recently, rather than receiving bribes from individual defectors, boarder guards have been reluctant to receive bribes from families. Though there is a possibility that individuals may return it is rare that families return and hence the greater investment lies on individuals. Also, if a defector is caught by Chinese police and repatriated, there is a possibility that the escape route will be discovered. In that case, the border patrol in charge of that region will be punished.

More recently, the National Security Agency has reinforced their efforts to catch defectors in China themselves. Kim informed, that the workers of restaurants and hotels in Yanji and Longjing in China, are all staff from the National Security Agency and that more than 90% of visitors to China are connected with the Safety Agency acting as “spies” with orders to aid the abduction of defectors.


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