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April 26, 2013

Cell Phone Boom In North Korea

We've been hearing a lot about North Korea lately - mostly in a military and political sense. But what's up with their telecom industry? You may find some of the news surprising.


North Korea's public is largely prohibited from making international calls, their internet access is strictly censored, and according to some reports, calls and texts are regularly subject to government monitoring. However, the number of cell phone users in North Korea has nearly doubled since 2012, and is currently approaching 2 million users.

There are a few possible reasons for the increase.

First, earlier this year, it was announced that tourists visiting North Korea would have full internet access via their smart phones. The offer of 3G disappeared in March, with some exceptions made for resident foreigners, but it's speculated that excitement generated by the offer at that time encouraged cell phone purchases.

North Korean citizens who want to purchase a cell phone have to deal with paperwork and high prices. Consequently, the black market sale of phones has reportedly taken off, making black market dealers rich and increasing the visibility of the smart phone as a status symbol.

The service is provided by Kyotolink, a Cairo-based company that works with the North Korean government.