Efforts by North Korean authorities to block citizens’ cell-phone use along its northern border are affecting communication networks in neighboring China, drawing Chinese protests and demands from North Korea that China pay money to halt the jamming, sources say.
Chinese residents of areas near the border are finding it increasingly difficult now to get clear signals, an ethnic Korean living in China’s Jilin province told RFA’s Korean Service.
“Because North Korea sends electronic jamming signals, people in the border areas cannot make phone calls to ask for help in case of emergencies,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Cell phones are entirely useless in these areas,” he said.
North Koreans regularly use cell phones smuggled into the country from China to access telecom signals in border areas to make international calls and surf the Internet via their handsets.
Local phones are restricted to the North’s own network, though, as Pyongyang seeks to prevent the spread of information from abroad.
“It’s hard to use cell phones now in nearly all the areas along the North Korean border,” a second source told RFA, speaking from Tumen city in Jilin.
“Local governments are working together to try to solve the problem,” he added.
When North Korea in October celebrated the 70th anniversary of its founding Korean Workers’ Party, Tumen was “paralyzed” by the “strong and extensive” jamming signals broadcast by the North, RFA’s source said.
The move drew strong complaints from Chinese residents along the border, and local governments sent representatives to the North Korean consulate in Liaoning province’s Shenyang city to protest, the source said.
Protests had earlier been made in Jangbaekhyeon in Jilin’s Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture when North Korea sent strong jamming signals into the region in August, a local source said.
Though local officials asked North Korea’s Yanggang province to end the jamming, North Korean officials reacted “absurdly” to the request, asking that China pay a “huge fee” for the jamming to be stopped, the source said.
Now, some residents of Jangbaekhyeon are moving from the area so they can access clearer signals, he said.
“People living in China along the border are also leaving their villages to avoid being robbed or killed by North Korean border guards or other North Korean residents,” the source said.
“If North Koreans come across the border to China to commit crimes, people can’t use their phones to call for help,” he said.
Reported by Jieun Kim for RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Hyosun Kim. Written in English by Richard Finney.