North Korea Confiscating Mobile Phones

A group of dissident defectors from North Korea is reporting that the government of the hermit kingdom has begun a drive to confiscate mobile phones smuggled in from China. North Korea is one of the most disconnected countries in the world-- no good data on mobile penetration is available, but rates are presumed to be in the low single-digits, with much of that coming from smuggled phones.

This further crackdown indicates a fear within the government that access to outside information could lead to revolt. Given the way communications technolgies has aided rebellion across North Africa and the Middle East this year, the timing of this is hardly surprising.  From the AFP story on this:

But many residents in border areas that can receive mobile reception from China are known to use smuggled phones to talk to relatives and friends who escaped the impoverished state to settle in China or South Korea.

At present users restrict conversations to five minutes, the minimum time authorities need to trace a call, said the source.

South Korean analysts and officials say the reclusive regime has lately tightened controls on outside information to suppress news of popular revolts against despots in the Arab world.

In a country where information is controlled so tightly and the police state is so repressive, it's hard to imagine a few thousand cell phones leading to revolution.  But change happens slowly, and even a trickle of information would be progress in North Korea.