Phone calls to North Korea pose security risks, Seoul police says

SEOUL,  South Korean police expressed concerns over the national security implications of mobile phone conversations between North Korean defectors in the South and their relatives in the North.

North Koreans wait outside the border crossing between North Korea and Dandong, China's largest border city with North Korea. Pyongyang restricts North Korean communication with the outside world, and conversations with people in South Korea is considered a political crime, according to defector organizations. Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo
North Koreans wait outside the border crossing between North Korea and Dandong, China’s largest border city with North Korea. Pyongyang restricts North Korean communication with the outside world, and conversations with people in South Korea is considered a political crime, according to defector organizations. Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A police official who spoke to South Korean press on the condition of anonymity said the security concerns call for the passage of a law at the National Assembly that could step up surveillance, South Korean outlet Financial News reported on Friday.

Many North Korean defectors who have resettled in the South keep in contact with their families, who are able to circumvent North Korea regulations through the use of Chinese mobile phones. One unidentified woman defector said she calls her family in the North 3 or 4 times a week, to confirm money transfers through a broker based in China.

The use of the phones to contact the outside world is a punishable crime in North Korea and Pyongyang has been cracking down on phone use since Kim Jong Unfully assumed power in 2012. Phone conversations with people in South Korea are also considered a political crime, according to defector organizations.

North Korean defector sources say Pyongyang authorities have been cracking down on phone use, but sometimes demand bribes to look the other way.

It is unclear whether North Koreans in that situation are compelled to provide other information about South Korea. Police officials in Seoul are saying the conversations between family members can leak sensitive information that can pose a threat to South Korea’s national security, but amendments to Seoul’s Protection of Communications Secrets Act could reduce risks.

North Korea has interfered with South Korea’s security in the past, and investigators have found proof North Korea was behind a cyberattack against a South Korean nuclear operator in 2014.

North Korea is wary of any South Korean goals to produce its own nuclear fuel for the enrichment of uranium.

Seoul, however, does not have the right to enrich uranium, according to a new nuclear treaty with the United States that went into effect on Wednesday, Yonhap reported.

The treaty is a revision of a previous agreement signed in 1972, and is to be in effect for the next two decades.

By Elizabeth Shim

UPI