Study: North Korea crackdown on wired technology isolating population

SEOUL, Aug. 23 (UPI) — A state crackdown on mobile phones and personal computers is leading to overall declines in their use in North Korea.

The measures are being enforced at a time when Pyongyang is promoting more displays of loyalty to the Kim Jong Un regime, according to a new study from the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies at Seoul National University.

The recent survey of defectors indicates use of mobile and home phones and computer ownership have declined from a year ago, Yonhap reported.

The study interviewed 138 defectors who left North Korea from 2015-16, and the interviews were conducted between June and August. The research compared the results from interviews conducted in 2014 that surveyed 146 subjects.

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Use of landline phones declined from 47.3 percent to 44.9 percent, mobile phone usage decreased from 55.5 percent to 46.4 percent and computer use declined to 21.7 percent from 27.4 percent, according to the study.

The state crackdown on media is also affecting the amount of information North Koreans receive from the outside world, down 20.3 percent from 30.1 percent in 2014.

The changes are also affecting North Korean access to the domestic intranet, which was down 8 percent from 10.3 percent.

North Koreans have also less awareness of historical events such as the May 18 Gwangju Uprising, the 2002 World Cup and the launch of the Kaesong Industrial Complex. Awareness of each concept was down by 4 to 8 percentage points, according to the study.

Feelings of inimicality against South Korea are also on the rise. Concepts of the South as a “partner in cooperation” are not as popular and were down from 62.3 percent in 2014 to 53.3 percent.

North Korea, however, appears to be encouraging the viewing of state media at home.

The state is promoting a Netflix-style video streaming service called “Manbang,” according to official state media.

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