Daily Management Review

Monitoring Citizens Main Reason For North Korea To Allow Use Of Smartphone By Citizens


Monitoring Citizens Main Reason For North Korea To Allow Use Of Smartphone By Citizens
In North Korea, owning a mobile phone is viewed as a status symbol as the devices become more common place in this secretive country.
But people in North Korea are being monitored 24/7 by people employed by the state even as internet access is very limited. 
“In an Orwellian sense, North Korea is innovating on surveillance”, said Priscilla Moriuchi, director of strategic threat development at Recorded Future.
There are huge censorship and surveillance tools on the locally developed operating systems which are the only software available to run the phones, tablets, laptops and computers in North Korea.
Researchers and groups that work with defectors say that the available internet is totally cut off from the outside world.
Localized versions of Android run smartphones while localised version of Microsoft Windows or a system called Red Star, runs computers.
These operating systems diverts users to intranet that are filled with speeches of Kim Jong-un and North Korean dish recipes. 
North Korea could be “establishing a playbook for other authoritarian regimes” by the process of mandating the technologies that users can only install and use on mobile devices.
According to German researcher Florian Grunow, user behavior can be monitored by Pyongyang through the preloaded surveillance software and the Red Star system.
According to Ms Grunow, sharing of files by users can be blocked by authorities and remote deletion of files can also be done by the use of the software.
intranet browsing history and app usage is recorded by a tool called TraceViewer.
Random screenshots can be taken by the software which cannot be deleted by the users but can be viewed by them.
According to defectors, the contents of smart phones are randomly checked by police while regular monitoring of phone usage is done by the authorities.
It was in the early 2000s that intranet first became widely available in North Korea.
But a five year ban on mobile phones was put in place after an alleged wireless handset was used by to a suspected assassination attempt on then-leader Kim Jong Il in 2004.
Mobile devices were again allowed in 2009.
Some believe that this measure was an attempt by the regime to make itself popular among the local people.
“North Koreans aren’t completely oblivious to the outside world,” a researcher at Amnesty International, Arnold Fang said.
“In order to keep people happy, the North Korean government needs to show they are living a life of quality that is comparable to neighbouring countries.”
According to defectors, access to foreign media had been made very difficult through the newer devices though stricter monitoring even though TV dramas from South Korea or elsewhere were able to be smuggled into the country by defectors for the early devices.
According to Ms Moriuchi, access to the external internet is only available to a very limited number of North Korean elite.
Party members, government officials and researchers are the only ones allowed internet due to the nature of their job.