February 21, 2024

New smartphones appear in North Koreans’ hands for first time in years

Models with more advanced cameras likely imported from China despite sanctions in effort to appeal to consumers

North Koreans appear to be using a new generation of smartphones for the first time in around two years, NK News analysis shows, suggesting companies are working to overcome sanctions, an economic recession and the government’s COVID-19-related trade restrictions to cater to consumer demand.

At least one new phone likely sourced from China has appeared in the hands of citizens in state TV footage in recent months. It features design elements that first appeared on phones from global industry-leading brands in late 2019 and became widespread among Chinese brands in late 2020, such as a raised square-shaped rear camera housing and punch-hole front camera.