North Korea South Korea Execution
A female North Korean soldier looks out from behind a tree as she patrols the border fence along the banks of the Yalu River near the North Korean town of Qing Cheng. Reuters

A North Korean citizen has been executed after being caught making contact with South Korea by phone near the Chinese-North Korean border.

"At the beginning of this year they amended the criminal code. Then, in Hyesan, someone got executed as an example to the rest," a source told Daily NK.

The victim was named by the source as Ri Kyung-ho, a 49-year old stage lighting engineer, and was executed in March while his family was imprisoned in a State Security Department (SSD).

"Ri Kyung-ho was caught out of town by an SSD agent with a signal detector. He'd been calling his family in South Chosun," said the source, who spoke under the condition of anonymity.

"He probably didn't have time to take the phone apart and hide it before SSD agents got to his house."

The source's version of events could not be independently verified because of North Korea's watertight restrictions on travel and information.

Ri had allegedly been making regular phone calls across the border with the North's enemy in order to help defectors cross the divide to both South Korea and China.

"He seems to have started by conveying money from defectors to their families, but then began to help people who asked him to send their families to China" NK's source continued.

"Some people are asking why he was killed just because of the money thing, but there are a few who were close to him and his wife, and they say it was because he had been helping defections.

"In times gone by you could bribe your way out of this, but right now they're sure to punish you. Nobody knows when or why they might get caught up in it, so everyone is nervous," the source continued.

"Anyone who uses a cellphone to call 'that way' or 'the other way' [meaning South Korea or China] is scared."

Earlier this month, Daily NK revealed that North Korean authorities arrested or exiled approximately 100 people for viewing video content produced in South Korea in a further indication of Kim Jong-un's increasing sensitivity to outside influences.