Wednesday, June 29, 2005

South Korea Says North Korea Has Cut International Phone Lines

South Korea's spy agency said that 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, a news report said. 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, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported. Since April, even people with permits to make international calls can only do so under the strict surveillance of security officials, it 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, as well as illegal trading of foreign currency. In the last three years, the North has scaled back elements of its centrally planned economy and begun allowing some prices to be set by the market.