An agent from North Korea's Secret agency is allegedly facing execution after being caught using his internet privileges to search for information on the country's leader, Kim Jong-un. The agent, who worked within Bureau 10, a secret organisation that monitors both internal and external contacts in North Korea, was turned in by a fellow agent and is now at risk of being executed by firing squad.
All the intelligence officers involved in the purge are believed to be young, having joined the organisation not long after receiving their degrees last year. They were primarily tasked with creating plans for managing the nation's information barrier and belonged to mid-to high-rank positions within the organisation.
North Korea restricts internet access to prevent its citizens from learning about the outside world, with agents requiring permission from their superiors to access the internet. The other agents involved in the incident have been fired from their positions.
The purge is seen as an indication of the government's struggle to maintain tight control over the flow of information into the country. According to Greg Scarlatoiu, head of the Commission for Human Rights in North Korea, even the most trusted operatives working for Kim's dictatorship are now looking to the outside world for information. This, coupled with the "hermit kingdom's" inadequate information coming from the outside world, is viewed as a threat to the regime's hold on power.
North Korea exists as a buffer zone between the U.S.-supported South Korea, Japan to the east, and China, with which it shares a border. The oppression North Koreans face will eventually come to a swift end due to information surreptitiously smuggled into the country.
The intelligence agents were responsible for maintaining remote access, bugging, and security systems, as well as creating computer programmes for the nation's home firewall. Investigators are looking into whether the agents disclosed illegal information to others.
Since the agent responsible for conducting the leader's investigation was a "security warrior tasked with defending Kim Jong-un with his life," his acts were seen as exceptionally repugnant. The incident has prompted a severe crackdown within the ministry.
North Korea strictly controls internet access, with only a small percentage of citizens having access to the internet. The others are expected to make do with a state-run intranet service that is policed rigorously. It is unclear whether Google was the search engine used by the agent.