Regime tightens security at border

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Regime tightens security at border

North Korea has ordered an intense crackdown at its border with China to prevent a controversial Hollywood movie that centers on an assassination plot against its leader Kim Jong-un from entering the country, according to media reports.

Sony Pictures released “The Interview” online on Wednesday and in theaters in the United States on Thursday, withdrawing its decision to call off the comedy’s release after threats from hackers. U.S. authorities have concluded that North Korea was behind the large-scale hack into Sony Pictures, though Pyongyang has denied any responsibility.

Free North Korea Radio, an outlet specializing in information on the reclusive regime, reported on Thursday that the country’s law enforcement authorities had vowed to stop the movie’s circulation in North Korea.

“The State Security Department and the Ministry of People’s Security conducted an emergency meeting and issued an order to stop the movie from entering the country at all costs,” Free North Korea Radio quoted a source from the North Korean city of Sinuiju as saying. “Starting Friday, investigators will be dispatched to markets around the country and inspections at the border will be strengthened.

“Some inspectors who maintain cozy relationships with smugglers warned them that they can bring in anything but the American film,” the source was quoted as saying. “But people are already showing an interest after [word] spread last month that a movie about [a plot to kill Kim Jong-un] would be shown in the United States. Some have even asked the smugglers and CD vendors to supply the movie.”

The South Korean government acknowledged that Pyongyang had apparently shifted its approach to tighten its grip over the situation at home following failed attempts to stop the movie’s release via cyberattacks and threats. After the film’s online release, Kim Song, a political counselor from the North Korean mission at the United Nations, condemned the movie, calling it an “unpardonable mockery of our sovereignty and the dignity of our supreme leader,” The Associated Press reported.

However, he added that North Korea would have no “physical reaction” to the movie’s release.

Meanwhile, North Korea’s Internet connection showed some signs of malfunction Friday morning. The country’s Internet went completely dark for 10 hours on Tuesday and has flickered over the past four days. On Friday, the state-run Korean Central News Agency’s homepage was down for seven hours from 1 a.m. to 8 a.m. The website of Uriminzokkiri TV, the North’s propaganda arm, also showed unstable connections.

While Sony Pictures has decided not to release “The Interview” in South Korea, taking into account the peculiar nature of inter-Korean relations, residents here have still expressed an enthusiastic interest in the movie.

The comedy was the most-searched-for item on major portal sites throughout Thursday after it was released online. It remained as one of the top 10 most searched word on Friday.

BY SER MYO-JA [myoja@joongang.co.kr]




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