Defectors using cell phones, web sites to reveal North Korea's secrets

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Seoul (South Korea), Mar.29 (ANI): A handful of North Koreans are using networks, including cell phones, to reveal secrets about the impenetrable nation.

According to the New York Times, North Korean defectors and South Korean human rights activists are using cell phones to pierce North Korea's near-total news blackout.

To build the networks, the NYT says recruiters slip into China to woo the few North Koreans allowed to travel there, provide cell phones to smuggle across the border, then post informers' phoned and texted reports on web sites.

The work is risky. Recruiters spend months identifying and coaxing potential informants, all the while evading agents from the North and the Chinese police bent on stopping their work.

The North Koreans face even greater danger; exposure could lead to imprisonment - or death.

The result has been a news free-for-all, a jumble of sometimes confirmed but often contradictory reports. Some have been important such as the outrage among North Koreans over a drastic currency revaluation late last year.

The fact that such news is leaking out is something of a revolution for a brutally efficient gulag state that has forcibly cloistered its people for decades even as other closed societies have reluctantly accepted at least some of the intrusions of a more wired world.

"In an information vacuum like North Korea, any additional tidbits - even in the swamp of rumors - is helpful," said Nicholas Eberstadt, a scholar at the American Enterprise nstitute who has chronicled the country's economic and population woes for decades.he news the informants are spiriting out is not likely to answer the questions about the North's nuclear program or leadership succession that the United States cares about most. There is no evidence so far that these new sources have any access, or particular insight, into the North Korean leadership or military elite.

The informers themselves remain of limited use to American and South Korean spymasters, in part because the North has no broad cell phone network, making it easier for the authorities to eavesdrop on calls and harder for handlers to direct operatives in real time.

"You're not going to find the North Korean uranium project from these guys," the NYT quoted one American intelligence official, as saying.

The web sites appear to have inflicted damage. North Korea's spy agencies, which almost never admit to weaknesses, recently warned that South Korea's "plot to overthrow our system, employing all manners and means of spying, is spreading from the periphery of our territory and deeply inland."

They vowed retaliation, especially against "human trash," an apparent reference to the North Koreans who have betrayed their leaders' code of silence out of principle or for pay to upplement their usually meagre wages. (ANI)

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