In the parallel universe – 10 surprising facts about technology in North Korea

We still don’t know much what life looks like in the most reclusive country in the world. However, we do know that there is no escape from progress.

Kim JeongUn, the current leader of the country, was educated in Europe. But this fact apparently had no impact on him. North Korea still guards its secrets, despite ongoing economic problems and food shortages.

What’s interesting in the influence that internet has on the North Korean leader. It is difficult to access any current data on who and for what purpose uses the internet in this country, but it is a known fact that North Korea is sometimes online.

Here are some interesting facts about new technologies in this country:

Almost no one uses internet

The internet access is very limited. It is completely different from the access you and I know and use on daily basis. The access is severely limited and only permitted to foreigners and the elite.

As I mentioned in my previous articles an ordinary citizen of  North Korea has access to the internal intranet called Kwangmyong, which is completely separated from the outside world and full of propaganda. Most websites belong to the North Korean institutions, although some commercial sites are popping out slowly. In 2015, the first online store of Okryu was launched.

No Facebook

maxresdefaultFor most of us, even if we don’t use it, living without Facebook sounds really unimaginable. Facebook is a huge part of the modern social culture, however, in North Korea Facebook has been blocked. The imaginative regime has created its own equivalent of this social media. It seems that the North Korean regime approves the very idea of social networking however they are doing it in their own way. That’s how a Facebook clone has been created. Kwangmyong, as it is called, was discovered last year by Doug Madory of Dyn Networks, a company that monitors Internet infrastructure. Madory managed to break into Kwangmyong for a moment too. You can sign in with email and post messages on someone’s wall. It is still unclear whether the portal attracted more users after the company hacked it.


1 on 10 North Koreans own a Smartphone

According to the main operator of this country – Koryolink – there are 3 million users of the telecommunication networks in North Korea. Not a mesmerizing number when we take into account that North Korea’s population number turns around 25 mln. North Koreans citizens cannot make international calls. Koryolink does not allow it. According to Amnesty International, some people residing along the Chinese border are trying to use smuggled phones and SIM cards to contact their family members who have escaped from North Korea. The organization points out that it is very risky, and the chances to get arrested is high.

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Designed and manufactured locally by North Korea’s Mangyongdae Information Technology Corporation, the new 2017 smartphone is “versatile and multifunctional” and comes in white or black, according to state-sponsored news agency DPRK Today. It also looks just like an iPhone.

USB flash drives are considered a fashion accessory
Young people from Pyeongyang, the capital of North Korea, use pen drives as a piece of clothing, writes Andrey Lankow in his book.

PCs are for the rich

Hundreds of thousands of people have PCs – these are the calculations by André Lankow, the author of The Real North Korea. The regime uses desktop computers, however, they are available only to elites or students who study at the University of Pyeongyang. It has been revealed that in North Korea there are also internet cafes. Computers are also in schools, but they are strictly monitored by the regime.

Regimes computers operate on Linux…

North Korea has built its own operating system called Red Star. Because North Koreans use flash drives to smuggle movies, information, and other multimedia from China, Red Star is programmed to track them down.

… and looks similar to OS X


Red Star strikingly resembles western operating system OS X. You can read about it in our next article.

Only privileged can an afford cheap tablet from China 

C0t72jOVIAEPghLNorth Koreans have their own tablet called Woolim, reported Florian Grunow, Niklaus Schiess and Manuel Lubetzki last year. It does not have Wi-Fi or Bluetooth and its operating system is a limited version of Android. The device is manufactured in China and costs about 250 euros. For an ordinary citizen, it is just not possible to afford one of those, only the representatives of the North Korean elite may possibly buy one.

People have TVs but they cannot watch too much content anyway

6Vik9kqTURBXy9lNDFjNTNhN2M0NzgzYzcyYThkYzMwYTBlZTMzOGU0NC5qcGVnkpUCzQMgAMPDlQIAzQMgw8OBoTEC.jpgHaving a television is not unusual in this country, and television is a useful tool for spreading propaganda. What is better than a nice image of the dear leader’s face popping out from your TV screen every single day? It must be quite fun and high-quality entertainment …  Most TVs and radios are programmed to receive only state-owned television stations, and the police systematically visit homes to check that no one is tampering with them.

There are only two mobile operators in the country

Koryolink is the main operator – it is the baby of Egyptian Orascom Telecom in cooperation with the North Korean government. It has been revealed that Orascom lost control of Koryolin in 2015. Another operator, Byol, entered the market. Perhaps Byol will join the Koryolin, which will allow the regime to have even greater control over its citizens in this area.

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