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North Korea’s First Smartphone Could Mean a More Open Society

by Jacob Kleinman | August 12, 2013August 12, 2013 3:30 pm PDT

North Korea is known for heavily restricting its citizens’ Internet access and just generally being one of the most closed-off nations in the world, but is it possible that the country’s first smartphone may signal an opening society? State news agency KCNA recently revealed that Kim Jong-un visited the facility where the Arirang handset is allegedly manufactured and praised the device, though we somehow doubt most North Koreans will ever actually own the handset.

North Korea’s first Android phone is also the first smartphone that the country’s leadership has endorsed. During his visit, Kim went as far as connecting the Arirang to nationalism, suggesting it could help “instill national pride and self respect into the Korean people.” He also praised the touchscreen and camera.

Meanwhile, some are suggesting that the entire thing may be an elaborate media hoax. Tech In Asia notes that it’s likely the handset is manufactured in China and simply assembled in North Korea, or even fully assembled abroad and simply packaged in the factory depicted in state photos. This theory isn’t beyond the scope of reason, considering who we’re dealing with here; then again, a North Korean company did announce the country’s first Android tablet earlier this year, so a smartphone’s not out of the question.

KCNA Tech in Asia

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Jacob Kleinman

Jacob Kleinman has been working as a journalist online and in print since he arrived at Wesleyan University in 2007. After graduating, he took a...


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