The Debate

Nearly 2 Million 3G Subscribers in North Korea

The amount of users on Pyongyang’s state sanctioned 3G network has nearly doubled since February 2012.

Zachary Keck

North Korea is usually not a place known for its interconnectivity, but that’s starting to change.

As North Korea Tech notes, the amount of North Korean subscribers to the state-sanctioned 3G network has doubled since February 2012, from one million to nearly two million.

North Korea Tech blog reports that the CEO of Kyotolink, the Cairo-based company that Pyongyang has commissioned to build its network, disclosed that the number of subscribers in a speech in Pyongyang. North Korea Tech then confirmed this with Kyotolink’s head office in Cairo.

Kyotolink first began operating in North Korea in 2008, after signing an agreement with the North Korean regime.

The phenomenal growth in the use of cell phones in the country is hard to fathom given the amount of censorship within the “Hermit Kingdom.” But, as North Korea Tech notes, the cell phone service in the country is not without its fault:

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“Subscribers are offered voice, text message and web browsing service on their phones, but North Korean regulations prevent citizens from direct international communications or Internet service. Foreigners in the country have a different class of service that allows international connectivity, but shuts off access to most domestic phone lines.”

Still, the 2 million figure almost certainly grossly understates the amount of cell phone owners in the country as many North Koreans, particularly those along the border with China, actually own phones that have been smuggled in from China. These devices don’t suffer from the same restrictions.

Nor are cell phones the only technology that has proliferated in the country as technically illegal markets have come to make up a larger part of the country’s economy. DVD players have also become far more common, as have USB flash drives.