(Photo) A man turns over his notebook as he talks on his mobile phone. Photograph taken by Koo Kwang-ho in the Moran District of downtown Pyongyang in June 2011

Many people in North Korea use burner phones, bought under the names of others. The authorities though, angered by not being able to identify those participating in intercepted communications, have now begun a full-fledged crackdown and intensive investigation to identify all burner phone owners. In mid-November, a reporting partner living in North Korea gave the following report. (Kang Ji-won / ISHIMARU Jiro)

According to the reporting partner, measures to ensure that mobile phones are registered under users’ real names were instituted in October. The first such measure was a rule limiting each person to possess only one phone. In North Korea, there are two telephone networks, Kangseong Net, which covers the provinces, and Goryeo Link, which is centered in Pyongyang. Some people had two or three mobile phones for conducting business in both the capital and the provinces but the ‘one phone per person’ rule has since been thoroughly implemented. “If someone wants to use an additional mobile phone, it is not easy to get approval because the procedure has become very difficult,” the reporting partner says.

At the heart of the crackdown is the eradication of burner phones. In December, 2008, North Korea’s mobile telecommunication network was launched. Since then, the number of subscribers has increased rapidly, with the current number of mobile phone users in North Korea said to exceed 5 million people.
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