North Korea is expanding efforts to control its borders and reduce information flows in and out of the country by harshly punishing people trying to flee the country, and hitting those aiding them with harsher sentences, said Human Rights Watch on Monday.
North Koreans who escaped to South Korea but still have contacts in the north told Human Rights Watch that crackdowns on the North Korean border have intensified, including increased government efforts to monitor, track down, and punish unauthorized phone calls. In China, the government continues to detain and repatriate fleeing North Koreans.
“We must set up two or three layers of mosquito nets to prevent the poison of capitalism from being persistently spread by our enemies across the border into our territory,” said Kim Jong-Un, North Korea’s supreme leader, during a speech at the 8th Conference of Ideological Workers of the Korean Worker’s Party on Feb. 25, 2014. “We also have to be active to block the imperialists’ plots for ideological and cultural invasion.” – according to Human Rights Watch.
The “mosquito net” system Kim referred to was developed in the North to attract the inflow of foreign investment while blocking the infiltrations of foreign ideas, news, and culture.
“North Korean authorities are using brutal punishments to shut the door on people fleeing the country, and cracking down on those who share information with the outside world,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia Director, Human Rights Watch. “Kim Jong-Un is trying to silence news of his systemic and pervasive rights crimes by going after the messengers, such as people with connections in South Korea or those who can help North Koreans flee there.”
The North Korean leadership has made clear the country must redouble its efforts to remain shut to the outside world.
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