North Korea Reportedly Cuts International Phone Lines

By Associated Press

June 26, 2005

SEOUL, South Korea -- North Korea has cut most of its international phone lines since late March over concerns that sensitive information about its society will flow out of the isolated country, South Korea's spy agency reportedly said Tuesday.

Spy agency officials told a closed-door session of the National Assembly's Intelligence Committee that international phone connections had been cut at most of the North's trading companies and at government agencies since late March, according to South Korea's Yonhap news agency.

Since April, even people with permits to make international calls have been able to do so only under the strict surveillance of security officials, the report said.

Spy agency officials said the steps were taken to eliminate sources of instability ahead of the 60th anniversary of Korea's liberation from Japanese colonial rule, as well as the 60th anniversary of the founding of its Workers' Party.

North Korean authorities also are struggling to deal with rising crime following economic reforms in 2002 and illegal trading of foreign currency. In the last three years, Pyongyang has scaled back elements of its centrally planned economy and started allowing some prices to be set by the market.,1,1223763.story?coll=sns-ap-world-headlines