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This article was published on August 12, 2013

    North Korea’s new smartphone ‘manufacturing’ industry gains Kim Jong-Un’s approval

    North Korea’s new smartphone ‘manufacturing’ industry gains Kim Jong-Un’s approval Image by: AFP/Getty Images
    Kaylene Hong
    Story by

    Kaylene Hong

    Kaylene Hong was Asia Reporter for The Next Web between 2013 and 2014, based in Singapore. She is bilingual in English and Mandarin. Stay in Kaylene Hong was Asia Reporter for The Next Web between 2013 and 2014, based in Singapore. She is bilingual in English and Mandarin. Stay in touch via Twitter or Google+.

    After recently finding out that North Korea has a self-manufactured Android tablet, it should come as no surprise that the isolated country is apparently producing its own smartphones too, despite the fact that ordinary citizens in the country don’t have access to the Internet.

    The latest thing that North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un is looking at is apparently an Android cellphone called “Arirang” — according to the folks over at North Korea Tech.

    Over the weekend, Kim visited a Pyongyang factory where the cellphones are made. The North Korean news agency has released photos of the visit, including the Android phone. No further specifications of the device have been released — though it is said to be a touchscreen phone and its camera is said to have “high pixels”.


    The official news coverage of Kim’s visit is as follows (emphasis ours):

    He learned in detail about the performance, quality and packing of “Arirang” hand phone being made at this factory.

    He highly appreciated the creative ingenuity and patriotic enthusiasm with which the officials and employees of the factory laid a solid foundation for mass-producing hand phones by building a new modern hand phone production process.

    He praised them for developing an application program in Korean style which provides the best convenience to the users while strictly guaranteeing security.

    After learning about the performance of a touch hand phone, he said that a hand phone is convenient for its user when that part of the phone is sensitive.

    He noted that these hand phones will be very convenient for their users as their camera function has high pixels.

    After being told that “Arirang” hand phones which the factory started producing a few days ago are high in demand among people, he said he was also pleased as they are liked by people.

    Looking at the trademark “Arirang” inscribed on the hand phone, he noted that mass-production of goods with DPRK trademark can instill national pride and self-respect into the Korean people.

    How nice to see hand phones being successfully produced with indigenous technology, he said, adding it is of educational significance in making people love Korean things.

    He said that only when the quality of products is improved while boosting their production, people will like home-made things and they will be in high demand.


    It is worth noting, however, that North Korea Tech observed that workers are shown with finished products, inspecting them and testing them but there is an absence of actual manufacturing — which suggests the cellphones were probably made to order by a Chinese manufacturer and shipped to the factory for inspection before going on sale.

    North Korea has shown budding signs of opening up over the past year or so, most notably after foreigners got access to 3G. With Kim’s stamp of approval on smartphones (and how he positions mass-production of the phones as patriotic), does this mean the extremely isolated country could start being connected soon? More likely than not, there is a long way to go — but this is a first step and could be the start of more things to come.

    Headline image credit: Ed Jones via AFP/Getty Images, Screenshots via North Korea Tech