Posted March. 22, 2010 05:42,
A 2004 explosion at a railway station in North Korea was an attempt to assassinate leader Kim Jong Il, Chinas state-run Xinhua News Agency quoted an analysis as saying yesterday.
The train explosion at Ryongchon Station in North Pyongan Province on April 22 that year killed nearly 200 people, injured more than 1,500, and destroyed more than 8,000 homes. The explosion is believed to have been an attempt to assassinate Kim, Xinhua said.
Though Xinhua quoted an analysis, it is quite unusual for the news agency to say the explosion was an assassination attempt on Kim. Xinhua mentioned the incident while reporting on mobile phone use in North Korea.
The report said the number of mobile phone users in North Korea surged to 20,000 a year after mobile telecom service was launched in November 2002. Pyongyang, however, banned the use of mobile phones following the explosion.
Xinhua said the ban was imposed directly by the National Defense Commission, North Koreas highest-ranking body, due to fears over the leak of news on the explosion outside of the communist country.
In the early days of mobile phone use, only officials at the peoples committee of the ruling Workers Party and the ministries of public safety, national security and defense could use them. After the explosion, however, as many as 10,000 mobile handsets were seized by authorities.
The cost of a mobile handset and registration was as high as 1,300 U.S. dollars when the greenback was traded at 1,200 to 1,300 North Korean won, equal to more than 600 months of monthly wages for the average North Korean worker (2.20 dollars).
In the face of mounting complaints over the ban, North Korean authorities re-allowed the use of mobile phones in March last year.
An estimated 120,000 North Koreans use mobile telecom service. Considering North Koreas population of an estimated 24 million as of 2008, this translates into one handset per 200 people.
Xinhua added that mobile phones have brought about many changes in the lives of North Koreans.