There are times when we need to really just sit back and appreciate the cell phones that we carry around. Not just because they allow us to text our friends the mundane details of our lives, or update our Facebook pages, or even read the news. We need to be thankful that we live in a country that even allows us to own a cell phone.
In North Korea, the government is seizing cell phones from citizens. They fear that cell phones will be used as a tool to organize protest rallies. And in a country where news is highly regulated by the government, the thought of a smartphone accessing outside information that might conflict with government sanctioned news is a terrifying prospect for the powers that be.
Considering how cell phones have been a key tool in organizing uprisings throughout the Middle East, Kim Jong Il and his cronies should be scared. North Korea has their own cellular network, but it is heavily monitored by the government to prevent outside information from getting into the country.
In the northern border regions, people are smuggling phones in from China and Russia and tapping into networks from those countries to place “illegal” phone calls. Those calls are limited to 5 minutes so police can’t trace the calls and seize the contraband phones.
Fear has spread to the point where foreigners who visit the country must turn over their cell phones upon entering the country and aren’t allowed access to rental cell phones while in North Korea.
North Korea is one of the poorest countries on earth, so cell phone proliferation isn’t a huge problem yet. There are still only 450,000 registered cell phone users in the country of more than 24 million people (less than 2%). But the number of registered cell phone users has doubled in the last year, meaning the government will have a harder and harder time trying to control information moving forward.