North Korean government labels cell phone users as war criminals

North Korea is one of the most closed-off countries in the world, and now its government is trying to limit information flow even more by threatening to punish cell phone users.

In North Korea, using a cell phone could come with the accusation and punishment of being a war criminal.

North Korea's army CBS/Randy Schmidt

According to The Telegraph, anyone caught using a mobile phone or attempting to flee to China during the 100-day mourning period for late leader Kim Jong-il will be considered a war criminal and "punished accordingly."

Kim Jong-il, 69, died on December 17 from a heart attack. His son, Kim Jong-un, has taken over as North Korea's president.

When Jong-il died, the country was swept in massive mourning and public outpourings of grief. However, according to The Telegraph, with reports of increasing poverty and oppression and diminishing food supplies, tens of thousands of people are trying to escape to neighboring countries.

The ban on cell phones seems to stem from the North Korean government wanting to keep a tight reign on information flow in and out of the country, according to The Telegraph. This isn't the first time North Korea has stifled cell phone use; in 2008, the government reportedly confiscated mobile phones for the same reason.

In November, Reuters reported that 1 million people in North Korea would have cell phones by the end of 2011 and this is "barely four years after people were thrown into prison camps, or possibly even executed, for owning one," the news source wrote. But, still, 1 million people is just 5 percent of the country's total population.

It's unclear how Jong-un will regulate cell phone use once the 100-day mourning period for his father ends.

About the author

Dara Kerr is a staff writer for CNET focused on the sharing economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado where she developed an affinity for collecting fool's gold and spirit animals.

 

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