North Korean Crackdown on Cellphone Use Causes Spike in Corruption

Military women in North Korea

Military women in North Korea taking a look at a camera. Photo: Roman Harak / flickr.

Corruption in North Korea is on the rise as agents from the Ministry of State Security more brazenly demand bribes to look the other way when North Koreans make calls to their relatives in South Korea on their mobile phones, North Korean sources told RFA’s Korean Service.

“Whenever we need to call our family in the south, we are under the protection of a security agent,” a source in North Hamgyong Province said. “Callers have the security agent by their side to secure personal safety,” the source added.

“If you send money through a broker who knows these agents, you can talk to relatives in the South without worrying about getting busted,” the source said. “Bribes range from 500 to 1000 yuan ($ U.S. 72 to 145, approx.) per call, which is quite expensive, and their tyranny is getting worse as their demands for more money are becoming more and more unreasonable.”

“Everyone knows that they are taking bribes from the residents,” the source said, “but nobody can do anything about it.”

“So many people here are being exploited, but they think that it is beneficial to pay these bribes to be on good terms with the security agents.”

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Reported by Myungchul Lee of RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Dukin Han. Written in English by Eugene Whong.

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