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article imageNorth Korea to punish cellphone users as war criminals

By Kesavan Unnikrishnan     Jan 30, 2012 in World
North Korea has banned its citizens from using their cellphones for 100 days set aside for mourning the death of Kim Jong-Il. Those who disobey the ban will be branded war criminals.
North Korea has a 3G wireless network which has been operational since 2009 and is currently covering 94% of its population. Majority of its 1 million users are part of the country's ruling elite. The regime closely monitors each call, while surfing the Internet is out of the question.
The ban on mobiles was apparently made to try and stop North Korean citizens trying to escape the country due to dwindling food supplies. The regime fears that any outside communication could assist anybody attempting to flee the country to reach South Korea, where an estimated 23,000 defectors have now settled.
According to The Telegraph, the ban on cell phones seems to stem from the North Korean government wanting to keep a tight reign on information flow.
Any discontent would be encouraged by reports sent into the country by mobile phone about conditions outside North Korea. There are also concerns in North Korea that reports about the popular uprisings in the Middle East last year which toppled long-ruling dictators in countries like Tunisia, Libya and Egypt could trigger unrest in the isolated nation.
The regime banned the use of cellphones in 2004 after an explosion at the Ryongchon railway just a few hours after train carrying leader Kim Jong-il passed through it. Security officials suspect a cellphone was used to ignite the bomb.
It's unclear how Kim Jong-un will regulate cell phone use once the 100-day mourning period for his father ends.
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