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N. Korea tightens control on communication: Amnesty Int'l

All Headlines 19:07 March 09, 2016

SEOUL, March 9 (Yonhap) -- North Korea has intensified repression over its citizens' means of communication since Kim Jong-un took power in 2011, an international human rights advocacy group said Wednesday.

For some 3 million North Korean mobile phone subscribers, all international calls are blocked, Amnesty International said in its "Connection Denied: Restriction on Mobile Phones and Outside Information in North Korea" report.

Access to the Internet is also restricted to foreigners and a few select citizens, it said.

Arnold Fang, East Asia Researcher at the group, said the absolute control of communication is an essential weapon for the authorities to conceal details about the human rights situation in the country.

"North Koreans are not only deprived of the chance to learn about the world outside, they are suppressed from telling the world about their almost complete denial of human rights," Fang said.

The London-based human rights group said the number of illicit trade in imported mobile phones and SIM cards, which are commonly called "Chinese mobile phones," is growing.

According to the report, these phone enables North Koreans living near the border to access Chinese mobile networks and communicate directly with people, namely loved ones, outside the country.

People who do not possess those phones pay a broker to set up such a channel. The brokers take up to 30 percent in commission on a minimum US$1,000 cash transfer to relatives across the border, the report said.

Pyongyang recently beefed up its ability to control information flow by using signal jammers near the Chinese border, according to the report.

"The North Korean authorities must end the repressive controls against people wanting to contact the outside world," Fang said.

The report was based on interviews with 17 North Korean defectors living in South Korea and Japan, who fled the communist country after 2009. It also included the opinions of 19 experts, such as sociologists and activists, according to Amnesty International.

North Korea has long been labeled one of the worst human rights violators in the world. The North has denied accusations of its alleged rights abuses, however, calling them a U.S.-led attempt to topple its regime.

scaaet@yna.co.kr
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