December 01, 2023

Call me, comrade: the surprise rise of North Korean smartphones

In the decade since they were first introduced, apps have flourished but devices remain restrictive

2018 marks the tenth year that cellphones have been legally available in North Korea. The number of users has been growing significantly since then, but overall use remains low: according to the country's state-run Sogwang outlet in January, more than 3.5 million - out of a population of 25 million - have mobile subscriptions.

“We started providing the 3G service in December 2008, so this year marks the 10th year of the service,” Han Jong Nye, from the Arirang Information and Technology Center in Future Scientist Street in Pyongyang, was quoted as having said in Sogwang in January. "The demand for mobile phones is growing larger and larger."