N. Korean reportedly executed over news leak

Associated Press / March 5, 2010

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SEOUL - A North Korean firing squad publicly executed a factory worker for sneaking news out of the reclusive communist country via his illicit mobile phone, Seoul-based radio said yesterday.

The armaments factory worker was accused of divulging the price of rice and other information on living conditions to a friend who defected to South Korea years ago, Open Radio for North Korea reported on its website.

The man, surnamed Chong, made calls to the defector using an illegal Chinese mobile phone, the broadcaster said, citing a North Korean security agency official it did not identify. The report did not say when the phone calls were made.

The execution took place by firing squad in late January in the eastern coastal city of Hamhung, according to Open Radio for North Korea. The station broadcasts into North Korea, which tightly controls news.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which handles relations with North Korea, and the National Intelligence Service, Seoul’s main spy agency, said they could not confirm the report.

Mobile phone use in authoritarian North Korea is tightly restricted, though the country introduced an advanced network in partnership with Orascom Telecom, based in Cairo, in 2008. North Koreans who manage to make illegal international mobile phone calls mostly use networks in neighboring China.