A North Korean spy has been sentenced to death for Googling Kim Jong-un.
The unidentified agent faces death by firing squad for daring to read about the dictator from within Bureau 10, the secretive agency monitoring internal and external communications in the repressive state.
Sources in Pyongyang told South Korean newspaper Daily NK that the individual was among a number of intelligence officials betrayed to the Ministry of State Security by a colleague. The other officers have reportedly been dismissed from their posts.
Internet access is strictly controlled in the ‘hermit kingdom’ of North Korea, so-called for its isolation from the rest of the world and the quasi-religious cult of personality surrounding the nation’s leader, with even top-level intelligence figures unable to get online without prior approval.
The source told Daily NK: ‘Bureau 10 departments are given access to the internet, which had allowed agents to turn off their search word recording devices and search the web as much as they like without issue.
‘But after a new bureau chief took over, even these previously routine issues have turned into major incidents.’
Greg Scarlatoiu, director of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, said the purge speaks to how the regime is increasingly struggling to maintain its iron grip on the flow of information into the country.
Mr Scarlatoiu said: ‘Even the most trusted agents of the Kim regime are now attempting to access information from the outside world.
‘The Kim family regime has stayed in power through overwhelming coercion, punishment, surveillance and information control.’
He added: ‘The regime continues to see the very limited information entering the country from the outside world as a grave threat to its grip on power.
‘Despite the regime’s efforts, the North Korean information firewall is slowly, but surely and steadily, crumbling.’
The intelligence officials caught up in the recent purge of Bureau 10 are all understood to have been young, having joined the agency not long after graduating last year.
They were mostly of mid-to-high rank at the organisation, charged with developing programmes for controlling the country’s information firewall, according to Daily NK.
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