Threat of life imprisonment to North Koreans who call outside world

Lee Sang Yong  |  2018-04-02 22:27
The influx and egress of information across North Koreas borders constitutes a threat to the regimes hold on power, and it is thus taking active steps to block the flow of information.  

The North Korean authorities are strengthening censorship and cracking down on so-called anti-socialist acts, such as the smuggling, possession, and distribution of impure media. In addition, in lectures delivered to the residents, the authorities have been warning of severe punishments for any who leak internal information to the outside world.

At meetings of the Socialist Womens Union, members were told that using a cellphone to conduct calls with the outside world is regarded as anti-state behavior, said one informant from Ryanggang Province during a call with Daily NK on March 29. The lecturer warned that anyone caught making such calls with the outside world will be sentenced to labor re-education punishment on the spot.  

A source in North Hamgyong Province who experienced the same series of lectures said, The lecturer said that the price of rice is a state secret, so those who reveal this to the outside will be sentenced to life in prison. The general message of the lectures was: Enemies want to take our information and cause the republic [North Korea] to collapse.'"

The life imprisonment punishment was referred to as a life sentence of hard labor. This generally means being sent to a prison attached to a coal mine, and laboring under strenuous conditions until death.

In the 2015 revision to North Koreas constitution, there are punishments stipulated for making phone calls to the outside world under Article 222, The Crime of Illegal International Communications. Under the law, those who make international phone calls are subject to a maximum of one year in a labor training camp or five years in labor reeducation camp.

Clearly, life imprisonment is not mentioned in the constitution. The authorities thus appear to be using the threat of life imprisonment to enhance the atmosphere of fear.  

There is a relationship between Kim Jong Uns crackdown on information flow and possible routes to denuclearizing the Korean peninsula. The Rodong Sinmun - North Koreas Party-run publication - is not reporting on this development. This suggests the regime believes it is vulnerable.

If North Koreas residents hear that the outside world - not just the US and South Korea, but also China - is pressuring North Korea to denuclearize, it could have an effect on public opinion within the country, damaging the regimes propaganda and image maintenance efforts.  

It seems like [the regime] has determined that residents cannot know that it is extending its hand to the outside world, said a separate source in Ryanggang Province.

Also, if the outside world finds out the truth about North Korea, it can serve as a disadvantage during a summit meeting, so they are actively trying to block information from getting out.   

Earlier this month, Daily NK reported that the authorities distributed an announcement throughout the country saying that anti-socialist behaviors will be eradicated through severe punishment. A special task force was assembled for censorship and crackdown against all anti-socialist materials.
 
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