Monday, 30 January 2012

North Korea bans mobiles for 100 days. Probably not, just shoddy journalism.

I'm no apologist for the regime in Pyongyang but I have to do a bit of rumour control. The Times of India, The Telegraph and various other sources are reporting that North Korea has banned the use of mobile phones for the next 100 days. None of them seem to quote any sources other than each other.

My suspicion is it's utter nonsense. Remember this story about Kim Jong Il scoring 5 holes in one on his first round of golf? Nonsense. It was never reported in the DPRK. I was there 18 months ago and no-one knew what I was talking about when I mentioned it. It was just made up by someone and no-one else checked facts. To be fair, who were they going to check them with?

I'd put money on this being the same. For one thing, why would the DPRK government bother? If the aim is to ensure that there is no Arab Spring type uprising then mobile phone owners probably aren't the people to worry about. All mobile phones are owned by the elite. At least legal ones. I'd imagine quite a few illegal Chinese phones using Chinese networks will have found their way across the border from Dandong. But those will only work along the border anyway as they won't register to the N Korean network. And using them would have been illegal anyway.

And what's more, why wouldn't they just tell Orascom to switch the network off?

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