Report: North Korea executed six for leaking phone numbers

By Elizabeth Shim   |   April 20, 2018 at 12:22 PM
North Korea is heightening measures to prevent the leak of North Korean state phone numbers to the outside world, according to a South Korean press report. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI

April 20 (UPI) -- North Korea may be struggling to keep its population in compliance with strict authoritarian rule, according to sources in the country who say there's evidence of executions and a reduction in food bonuses.

A high-ranking North Korean official who requested anonymity told Daily NK on Friday the regime has stepped up enforcement of "internal information security" following the attempted leak of government telephone numbers in 2017.

The numbers belonging to military and other government agencies were about to be leaked to a foreign contact, and six people linked to the attempt were executed last year, Daily NK's source said.

Authorities are particularly concerned because the leak took place in Pyongyang, where many of North Korea's favored elites live.

The execution by gun took place in order to teach others a lesson, according to the report.

"They are stressing any illegal acts will lead to a tail being stepped on," Daily NK's source said, adding the family members of the victims have been exiled to Hwanghae Province.

Following the incident, state authorities also collected or took place telephone directories that were previously distributed to individual households, the report states.

A source in Yanggang Province told Daily NK government agencies are "tense" because leaks have occurred previously and agencies at the border have subsequently installed surveillance cameras.

North Korea may have also relinquished control over food bonuses, because they are unpopular, according to Radio Free Asia and Japan-based Asia Press.

Distribution of gift bags of food, including cookies and candy distributed during national holidays, was at a record low this year during the annual Day of the Sun celebrations on April 15.

Jiro Ishimaru of Asia Press reported the gifts have no impact in building loyalty and better products are found at informal markets.

In 2016, sources in North Korea said the state gifts were being sold in the markets at marked-down prices.

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