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China's crackdown on mobile phones to affect North Koreans, report says

By Elizabeth Shim
China's crackdown on mobile phones to affect North Koreans, report says
A Chinese barge transports a CAT backhoe down the Yalu River past the North Korean city Sinuiju (background), across the Yalu River from Dandong, China's largest border city with North Korea. China is cracking down on illegal phone use and the changes are expected to affect North Korean communication with the outside world. Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

SEOUL, Oct. 24 (UPI) -- Users of Chinese mobile phones are expected to provide their real names during registration, and the new regulation could have an impact on how North Koreans communicate with their relatives in the South.

The policy is expected to go into effect in 2017 and is being implemented to crack down on illegal phone use, Radio Free Asia reported.

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A source in a Chinese city being affected by the changes said unverified phones are to be confiscated, and all unverified phones currently in use are to be disconnected next year.

The regulation is not targeting North Korean users of Chinese mobile phones, but is intended to prevent voice phishing, a crime that entails hacking into a private phone, then extracting the user's personal and financial information, according to the report.

North Koreans with relatives outside the country depend on Chinese mobile phone networks to communicate internationally, as the state's networks are limited to calls made within the country.

China's three main cell phone carriers already require subscribers to undergo name verification.

While some North Koreans can have a relative in China register the phone on their behalf before the device is used in North Korea, a second source told RFA the process is "not that simple."

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The China-based registrant could still be charged with smuggling the phone into North Korea or engaging in other illegal activity if caught, the source said.

In North Korea, the regime has continued to crack down on Chinese mobile phone use and has at times blocked wireless signals along the China border.

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