The mass-circulation Chosun Ilbo reported that scores of people in Jongju, Yongchon and Sonchon in North Pyongan province last week caused a commotion two days ahead of leader Kim Jong Il's February 16 birthday.
A North Korean source told Chosun Ilbo that the protesters fashioned makeshift megaphones out of newspapers and shouted: "We can't live! Give us electricity! Give us rice!"
"At first, there were only one or two people, but as time went by more and more came out of their houses and joined in the shouting," the source added.
The newspaper said that the North Korean secret police subsequently investigated the incident but failed to find out who had started the commotion.
"When such an incident took place in the past, people used to report their neighbours to the security forces, but now they're covering for each other," the source said.
The protests were triggered by the diversion of electricity from the energy-starved Jongju and Yongchon areas to the capital Pyongyang for celebrations marking Kim's birthday.
"Discontent erupted because the regime cut off electricity that had been supplied to them for only a few hours a day, and also they had a hard time putting food on the table due to soaring rice prices," the source told Chosun.
The newspaper said no concerted anti-government protests have broken out in North Korea, but there have been continuous small protests by people demanding food.
The North Korean regime last month reportedly asked the US to resume food aid. Two UN agencies have begun a mission to the secretive state to assess the food situation after a particularly savage winter and a sharp rise in global food prices, according to Agence France-Presse.
The mission comes after a visit by the World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organisation last year, which found that an estimated five million people in North Korea would face shortages this year.
North Korea suffered a famine in the 1990s which killed hundreds of thousands and has since relied on overseas aid to help feed its people.
The Chosun Ilbo said intelligence agencies in South Korea, which are closely monitoring developments in the North, believe the chances of a Middle East-style revolution in North Korea are slim for now.
Unlike people in the Middle East, North Koreans have virtually no access to the Internet, and they have no experience in staging organised protests.
Also, the military remains fiercely loyal to the 69-year-old North Korean leader, whose health is believed to be failing.
North Korea's state media has yet to report on the upheaval in the Middle East, including the fall of president Hosni Mubarak in Egypt.
But the DailyNK, a Seoul-based online newspaper which focuses on human rights issues in the North, said last week that news of the protests in Egypt is spreading in the North via Chinese TV channels and phone calls with defectors.
"Officials are having a tough time trying to keep the news from spreading," it added.
Source: Asia News Network
like the article said, the chance of a middle east level upheaval may be slim right now... but it's still really exciting to think about.