North Korea’s First Smartphone: Really?

Experts are already casting doubt on the true origins of North Korea's first home-grown smartphone.

Dan Jones, Mobile Editor

August 16, 2013

1 Min Read
North Korea’s First Smartphone: Really?

It's one small step for mankind but one giant leap for the dear leader as North Korea reportedly gets its first home-grown smartphone.

This new obelisk of mobile evolution in the isolated dictatorship appears to be an Android handset, according to the BBC. The "Arirang" smartphone is named after a traditional Korean folk song.

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) says the device was shown off to leader Kim Jong-un during a factory tour. Mr. Kim is said to have boasted of the "high pixels" of the phone's camera during the tour.

He instructed factory workers on the tour to "select and produce shapes and colors that users like."

Pundits, however, are already casting doubt on the origin of the smartphone. The BBC notes that Martyn Williams, a North Korean technology expert [Ed note: a part-time job if ever we heard of one...], suspects that the phone can be linked back to a Hong Kong manufacturer. Williams believes the phones were probably shipped to the factory ahead of Kim Jong-un's tour.

It's not too clear how much fun you could have with a smartphone in North Korea anyway. The national cellular network, Koryolink, was launched late in 2008 and now has 2 million subscribers. Phones, however, are restricted from accessing the Internet and activity on the network is extensively monitored. [Ed note: nothing like the good ol' USA, right readers?]

So we probably won't be seeing any inappropriate "selfies" from the supreme leader any time soon, no matter how great the Arirang's camera is.

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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About the Author(s)

Dan Jones

Mobile Editor

Dan is to hats what Will.I.Am is to ridiculous eyewear. Fedora, trilby, tam-o-shanter -- all have graced the Jones pate during his career as the go-to purveyor of mobile essentials.

But hey, Dan is so much more than 4G maps and state-of-the-art headgear. Before joining the Light Reading team in 2002 he was an award-winning cult hit on Broadway (with four 'Toni' awards, two 'Emma' gongs and a 'Brian' to his name) with his one-man show, "Dan Sings the Show Tunes."

His perfectly crafted blogs, falling under the "Jonestown" banner, have been compared to the works of Chekhov. But only by Dan.

He lives in Brooklyn with cats.

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