SEOUL, Feb. 24 (UPI) -- The North Korean regime is on alert after dozens of people staged nighttime protests in Pyongan province demanding electricity and food, a Seoul newspaper said.
The Feb. 14 protests were followed by another Feb. 18 in the city of Sinuiju when hundreds clashed with police to protest a crackdown on open-air markets, The Chosun Ilbo reported.
Sinuiju is considered North Korea's main gateway to the outside world.
"People can watch Chinese TV in Sinuiju and defectors can communicate with their family there," a source in North Korea told the newspaper. "Most people in Sinuiju probably know about the protests in the Middle East."
Some experts say they believe North Korean authorities began cracking down on open-air markets to prevent news about the Jasmine Revolutions from spreading across North Korea through market gossip.
Authorities are reportedly conducting body searches of people going from Sinuiju to the Chinese border town of Dandong and back, checking for USB memory devices or DVDs with information about the Jasmine Revolutions, protests in North Korea or information about living conditions in the North.
"There's still a lot of public unrest," the source in Sinuiju said.
South Korean Unification Minister Hyun In-taek said the North Korean regime "is probably trying to keep the Middle Eastern protests from affecting it."
"Internet access is strictly controlled in North Korea, and there is no North Korean media coverage, so I believe ordinary citizens are unaware" of the Jasmine Revolutions, he said.