North Korea to punish mobile phone users as 'war criminals'

LONDON: North Korea has warned its citizens against use of cell phones inside the country, saying anyone caught talking on mobiles would be branded as " war criminals" and punished accordingly, a media report said.

North Korea has long relied on a total restriction of information to maintain control over its isolated citizenry, and in this crucial time of transition between late Kim Jong Il and his successor, Kim Jong Un, the state is clamping down on anyone using mobile phones, 'The Daily Telegraph' reported.

This is apparently because of fears of possible discontent among people if they come to know about conditions outside North Korea from any report sent into the country by mobile phones, the report said.

There are also concerns in North Korea that reports about the popular uprisings in the Middle East last year which toppled long-ruling dictators in countries like Tunisia, Libya and Egypt could trigger unrest in the isolated nation.

Moreover, the North Korean regime fears that any outside communication could assist anybody attempting to flee the country to reach South Korea, where an estimated 23,000 defectors have now settled, the report said.

Meanwhile there are reports from within the isolated state that food supplies are again dwindling and that there has been an increase in the number of people attempting to cross the border into China.

The North recently accepted private food aid from the South Korean "Korea Peace Foundation" even as they maintain military exercises and standing threats against their neighbour.

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