About the Author
View more articles by Dagyum Ji
Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
North Korea’s Samhung IT Exchange Company is now selling products and services through “700 branches and agencies,” according to state media this week.
State-run outlet Dawn reported on Monday that the company, which produces online programs and smartphone applications, has “gained the upper hand” in developing apps for the Android mobile operating system.
The growth of smartphone use in the country, the report said, has led to a growing demand for apps running on the platform.
“The exchange company has established a nationwide network program system so that users can easily purchase information and technology products through the national as well as the mobile communication network,” the outlet reported.
“[The company] provides information technology products and services simultaneously through around 700 branches and agencies.”
Customers can purchase programs at online stores or at a range of shops across the country, though it isn’t clear whether these shops deal exclusively in Samhung products or sell other brands.
It would be not the first North Korea tech manufacturer to operate a dedicated store for customers: the Arirang company in December was reported to be selling its products at a special store.
The company, Dawn reported, also offers repair services and sells components “for the convenience of customers using Arirang electronic products.”
One regular visitor to North Korea told NK News that IT stores in-country aren’t usually “dedicated to one particular company.”
“They share other IT tech company products. So, their real meaning ‘is available in 700 branches,’ it doesn’t mean they have 700 of their own branches,” the source said, adding there was still a chance that the Samhung IT Exchange Company owns and operates its own special branches.
“The app store is an actual physical store,” they added. “I heard they’ve upped security, so you can’t share the software around easily anymore.”
The Samhung IT Exchange Company has in recent years rolled out a number of games and programs, including the anti-Japanese “Samurai Hunting” 3D shooting game for mobile, the Netflix-style service “My Companion 4.0” for smartphone and tablet PC users, and the “Fellow Traveler 1.0″ navigation program.
Samhung’s website reveals it sells up to 116 entertainment programs, 1714 recorded broadcasts, and 634 videos.
“My Companion” – which appears to be one of the company’s flagship programs – is sold on the website’s menu bar, which also features an online store, commercial information, local distributors, and a ranking of available games by popularity.
A photo of the website’s homepage suggested 55,123 had signed up for the company’s services on the day it was accessed in mid-January.
North Korean media has said the company provided services “aiming at developing programs beneficial to people’s cultural life and the improvement of intellectual ability.”
“Various kinds of Samhung Information and Technology goods are called convenient… by a large number of users,” Dawn reported.
Graduates from the DPRK’s top universities worked on the products, the report added, saying the developers had “concentrated” on designing artificial intelligence (AI) programs for Android.
“They proudly say that they are developing superior programs suitable for the domestic situation and ideology and sentiment of North Koreans by their own technology and brain power,” Dawn said.
“User convenience is prioritized in the exchange company’s business activity.”
The Rodong Sinmun reported in January that the Samhung IT Exchange Company began developing smartphone apps “several years ago.”
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: Dawn