North Korea Opens The Door To Mobile Internet—For Foreigners

The scheme will give 3G connectivity to tourists and non-DPRK nationals "no later than March 1."

Mobile Internet is coming to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. The news was announced this morning, but with one large caveat: The service, courtesy of local provider Koryolink, will only be available to foreigners. So, visitors such as Eric Schmidt, who undertook a three-day visit last month, will be able to do as they do in their own countries, only slower. The rogue state, which has been busy sending rockets up into space while exploding nuclear devices below ground, to the unease of the rest of the world, already has one famous smartphone user: its leader, Kim Jong Un.

It's the second such relaxation of rules governing mobile devices in as many weeks. Until recently, tourists were made to hand in their cellphones on arrival, meaning a communication-free stay, before the authorities allowed them to use their devices, provided they used a SIM card provided by local provider Koryolink, which is meant to enjoy a monopoly but, thanks to smugglers, residents who live in border areas can use mobile phones brought in from China, on Chinese networks.

[Image by Flickr user (stephan)]

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  • Gabriel

    Good news for traveling to the DPRK. Locals still have to wait for more liberal telecoms policies, of course, but this is a positive development for reporting and transmitting from inside. Opening up a country happens in small steps...

    It'll be interesting to see how this changes the vibe of the place. One of the magical benefits of traveling to North Korea is the ability to truly disconnect (one of my favorite things about going there). With 3G, I'm sure every tourist will soon be typing away into his smartphone, absorbed in the technology that distracts us, and missing a pretty amazing place.

    But that's the trade-off with technical progress, which is essential to North Korea. Will be watching this closely. 

  • JordanHarbinger

    This is a great development, because it's only a matter of time until cellphones brought in by foreigners are left to local guides as gifts and proliferate around the country.  Ideally, we'll see some photographs and videos being uploaded directly from the people of North Korea very soon.

  • Gabriel

    No doubt. Remember how awesome it was to see our local guides playing with our iPads? Amazing. This will only increase the amount of interaction...