N. Korean security officials use arrested foreign mobile phone users to investigate persons of interest

special patrols coronavirus outbreak smuggler mobile phones strict smuggler border
A border patrol checkpoint in Pungso County, Yanggang Province. This photo was taken in February 2019. (Daily NK)

North Korean security officials along the China-North Korea border have recently been attempting to engage in video calls with interested parties in China and South Korea through locals arrested for using foreign-made mobile phones.

This suggests that with North Korean security authorities declaring a “mop-up operation” against users of foreign-made mobile phones to completely “root out” so-called “anti-socialist and non-socialist behavior,” the scope of the Ministry of State Security’s investigation is expanding beyond North Korea’s borders.

According to a Daily NK source in Yanggang Province, Ministry of State Security branches along the border have been “brashly” carrying out their investigations by using locals arrested for using foreign-made mobile phones to make video calls to persons of interest in South Korea and China to confirm their identities. 

They are reportedly confirming the nationalities, areas of residence and remittance sources of those who have been in contact with the arrested locals.

In fact, a woman in her 40s identified by her family name of Kang was arrested in Hyesan last month by the city branch of the Ministry of State Security for illegally receiving remittances and using an illegal mobile phone. When security officials searched Kang’s house, they found the Chinese-made mobile phone she used and a fat stack of cash.

Recently, a Ministry of State Security investigator handling her care called her to an interrogation room and forced her to engage in video chatting with about 80 people on her WeChat list. WeChat is a Chinese instant messaging app.

The authorities aimed to confirm the credibility and accuracy of Kang’s confession, and to determine whether the people on her list were simply ordinary people or spies.

Essentially, investigators have gone beyond their existing practice of bringing cases to a conclusion by extracting confessions from suspects, and are expanding the scope of their inquiries.

The source said the Ministry of State Security has once again called on agents to use all…