Despite the significant strides that North Korea has made in recent years in updating the state of its domestic technological infrastructure, the “innovations” that the country has produced in order to achieve this have rarely made waves for their originality.
From direct copycat products to loose imitations, to the now blatant use of internationally famous trademarked names like the “iPad,” the North Korean tech world is filled with examples of knockoffs of foreign made products.
To summarize the latest and greatest examples of this trend, NK News has compiled a list, complete with pictures, to illustrate how these North Korean tech knockoffs compare with their foreign inspiration.
DIRECT COPYCAT PRODUCTS
Windows 8 Metro + Naver → Manmulsang
First on our list is Manmulsang, a new business-to-business (B2B) online shopping platform released late last year. Its user interface is a direct combination knockoff of Windows 8 Metro and Naver.
After North Korea launched Manmulsang, there was speculation that some of the major parts of its interface were borrowed directly from Microsoft’s Windows 8 and popular South Korean web portal, Naver.
Shim Hahng, a research assistant from the Department of the Microelectromechanical Systems of Tohoku University, told NK News that the site’s search bar interface is “undoubtedly from Naver,” and that Windows 8’s Metro UI appears to have been the prototype for Manmulsang’s overall platform design.
The juxtaposed pictures of Manmulsang with Metro 8’s and Naver’s home screens appear to confirm this.
The colorful tiles in Manmulsang’s interface suggest quite clearly the influence of Microsoft 8’s Metro UI. And the green bordered search bar in the top right of the interface is no doubt similar to, if not a complete knockoff of, Naver’s own design.
Mac GUI → Red Star OS
The operating system for North Korea’s domestic intranet, which is known as Red Star OS, was given a virtually identical layout to Mac’s graphical user interface (GUI).
The strong resemblance between the two operating systems leaves little doubt that North Korean internet developers borrowed heavily from Mac GUI, as the two are nearly indistinguishable when positioned next to each other.
iPhone 3 → Pyongyang Touch
The design of the Pyongyang Touch, which hit North Korean markets in 2014, was a virtual clone of the iPhone 3.
The overall shape and design of the Pyongyang Touch certainly suggests that the phone was designed with the iPhone 3 at the forefront of developers’ minds.
Other notable examples of direct copycat products include the Woolim tablet and Arirang smartphone, which were both suspected of being re-branded imports from Chinese companies. The Woolim tablet, which came out in 2015, was a direct import of Hoozo’s Z100. While the Arirang smartphone that was released in 2013 was a clone of the Chinese made Uniscope U1201 and re-marketed as North Korea’s own.
Netflix → Manbang
When North Korea released Manbang, a video-on-demand streaming service that relies on the country’s intranet, it made headlines for being a fairly blatant rip-off of the famous industry leader, Netflix. On the day of the service’s launch in August of last year, Netflix even mockingly changed its own Twitter bio to “Manbang knockoff.”
Though the two services unsurprisingly vary in quality and design, the general concept behind the technology is the same. And there certainly appear to be some key similarities in their look and overall function.
Like Netflix, Manbang allows users the ability to choose from a variety of programming categories. The above picture displays the following “Movie” categories: Chosun documentaries, Chosun art movies, foreign films, foreign animation films, children’s movies, and television dramas. In addition to a category selection screen for movies, Manbang also lets users pick from a range of TV and sports themed programs.
And similar to Netflix, Manbang affords its users the ability to explore programs on offer by typing in characters into a search box. When compared side-by-side, the search screen layouts are uncannily close in their overall design.
Another example of a ‘semi-knockoff’ is the Boy General game app that was released by developers in September of 2015. The game, which was a spinoff of a popular TV animation series within the country, shares a very similar map-like scenery to the Swedish-designed game known as Minecraft.
A NAME RIP OFF
On May 29th, NK News reported that North Korea had used the name “IPad” to refer to its newest tablet. The tablet is officially referred to by DPRK media as the “Ryonghung IPad”.
By all accounts, this represents the first time that North Korea has appropriated a trademark of one of the world’s most internationally recognizable firms. Whether it will be the beginning of a new trend in the North Korean tech world is something that yet needs to be seen.
POTENTIAL FUTURE KNOCKOFFS?
Back in March, North Korean state media claimed that the country is almost ready to launch a cloud computing service under the name, Eunjong.
According to official statements, the online storage utility, which is similar in concept to iCloud, ownCloud, Dropbox, and Google Drive, is an innovation that has been part of a move to catch up with the “growing demand for the cloud service.”
Regardless of what shape Eunjong ultimately takes, given the history of North Korean technological ingenuity, it should surprise no one if the design and function of the service borrows heavily, if not entirely, from one of the foreign-based cloud computing programs listed above.
Featured Image: Wikimedia Commons
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