North Korea opens up to cell phones, mobile users boom

North Korea opens up to cell phones, mobile users boom
There’s light at the end of the tunnel of cell phone use in the totalitarian communist country of North Korea. After the country banned handset use in 2004 following a railway explosion possibly targetting the country’s dictatorial leader, Kim Jong-il, and believed to have been triggered by a phone, residents were blocked from using handsets until 2008. Since then the country has moved relatively quickly opening up to mobile communication. 

A report was released this month by the Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability and it claims that 60% of people between 20 and 50 years old now use cellphones in Pyongyang, the 3 million capital of North Korea. Residents of the capital are by no means a representative factor for the whole country, though, as only select people are allowed in the city where government authorities vet very strictly for residency permits. 

Nonetheless, it’s a huge leap from 300,000 users reported on the only network in the country built by Egyptian company Orascom last year. Two years ago, mobile users amounted to less than 70,000 users. Now, the number stands at the comparatively impressive 800,000 users. It’s even more striking if you consider the fact that the average cell phone price in North Korea is reported to be around $350, while the average monthly wage stands at only $15.

For the three years that passed since mobile communications started opening up in the country in 2008, network provided Orascom has managed to build a contemporary 3G network covering 94% of the population but only 14% of the country. The otherwise poor country invested a massive $400 million in that one and only network.

Its use however is severely restricted. Things we take for granted, like the Internet and international calls are simply not allowed in North Korea. One thing it has managed to save on is R&D, though - the technology was all there for the taking when the country started rolling out the service.

"The DPRK (North Korea) mobile communications industry has crossed the Rubicon and the North Korean government can no longer roll it back without paying a severe political price," Alexandre Mansourov who wrote the report concludes.

source: Reuters

Image courtesy of AFP/Yonhap.



1. rendHELL

Posts: 304; Member since: Nov 09, 2011

too bad for north koreans.... they have been missing one of the good parts in life

2. nastynaps

Posts: 93; Member since: Aug 16, 2011

Late adoption of cell phones is probably the last thing you should feel sorry about for N. Koreans.

3. Phoneguy007

Posts: 218; Member since: Jun 02, 2011

right....Cuba also just allowed cell phones recently

12. iKingTrust

Posts: 716; Member since: Jul 27, 2011

What about freedom?

4. Firedrops

Posts: 254; Member since: Sep 06, 2011

Nobody in my country uses cellphones = nobody in the world can attempt to assasinate me. logic for you right there.

5. Mehha

Posts: 26; Member since: May 25, 2011

Eliminate USA from our mother earth and we'll see more than half of the world living happily in peace. These are the countries who oppose bulls**t US policies and therefore are being pushed back.

6. Debbie

Posts: 2; Member since: Nov 16, 2011

But yet hundreds/thousands flock to the USA seeking a better life from their former country.

9. Mehha

Posts: 26; Member since: May 25, 2011

And thats because US has control over those countries who have gold mines, are rich in oil and gas reserves and more importantly had faith in themselves. They (US) are trying to raise their living standards by feeding on other's resources, they have got almost nothing their own.

7. Penny

Posts: 1847; Member since: Feb 04, 2011

You have the freedom to use the internet. Don't take it for granted. Blame the U.S. all you want - it's certainly had its hand in its fair share of the world's problems. Just remember to blame the dictators and oppressors more.

8. GeckoHA559

Posts: 47; Member since: Jan 28, 2011

But obviously the US doesn't need to take military action against North Korea because those incharge of North Korea, don't abuse their people nor do they have nuclear power which could potentialy be dangerous?

10. Mehha

Posts: 26; Member since: May 25, 2011

And US exactly did that to Iraq, where they first claimed that they had weapons of mass destruction and then ended up accepting that they were wrong after killing millions of innocent people who didn't even know the 'w' of weapons. But they got it what they wanted...the oil fields. huh.

13. GeckoHA559

Posts: 47; Member since: Jan 28, 2011


11. allenmax

Posts: 2; Member since: Nov 22, 2011

Mobile marketing is commonly known as wireless marketing. However wireless is not necessarily mobile.

14. Raymond_htc

Posts: 430; Member since: Apr 06, 2012

If only North Korea can be democratic... like South Korea, that'll be great! But it'll never happen under the Kim Family's ruling..... :(

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