NKorea loosens restrictions on foreign cellphones

Jan 21, 2013 by Jean H. Lee
In this Dec. 16, 2008 file photo, released by China's Xinhua News Agency, people look at 3G mobile phones in Pyongyang, North Korea. North Korea is loosening its restrictions on foreign cellphones and is allowing visitors to bring their own phones into the country. The policy reverses a longstanding rule requiring visitors to relinquish their foreign phones at the border. (AP Photo/Xinhua, Zhang Binyang, File) NO SALES

North Korea is loosening some restrictions on foreign cellphones by allowing visitors to bring their own phones into the country. However, security regulations still prohibit mobile phone calls between foreigners and locals.

For years, North Korea required visitors to relinquish foreign cellphones at the border until their departure, leaving many tourists without an easy way to communicate with the outside world.

The ritual of handing over phones was part of an exhaustive security check that most visitors face at immigration in North Korea. Many foreigners—including Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google, who traveled to North Korea earlier this month—choose to leave their phones behind in Beijing before flying to Pyongyang.

Now, foreigners can bring wideband, WCDMA-compatible mobile phones into the country or rent a local handset at the airport, and purchase a local SIM card for use in North Korea. The SIM card allows them to call most foreign countries, foreign embassies in Pyongyang and international hotels in the North Korean capital, according to Ryom Kum Dan of 3G cellphone service provider Koryolink.

Cellphones rent for about $3.50 per day and SIM cards cost about $67, she said Monday. Satellite phones are prohibited, she said.

However, foreigners will not be able to communicate by mobile phone with local North Koreans, whose cellphones operate on a separate network, and they will not have access to the Internet using locally provided SIM cards. They can phone Japan and the United States, but not South Korea.

In this March 16, 2012 file photo, a North Korean woman uses a cellphone on a sidewalk in Pyongyang, North Korea. North Korea is loosening its restrictions on foreign cellphones and is allowing visitors to bring their own phones into the country. The policy reverses a longstanding rule requiring visitors to relinquish their foreign phones at the border. (AP Photo/Kim Kwang Hyon, File)

Cellphone use has multiplied in North Korea since Egyptian telecommunications firm Orascom built a 3G network in North Korea four years ago. More than a million people are using cellphones in the country, according to Orascom Telecom Media and Technology, which runs Koryolink as part of a joint venture with North Korea's telecommunications ministry called CHEO Technology JV Co.

The 3G network also provides North Koreans with access to the state-run Rodong Sinmun newspaper for a fee, but not to the global Internet.

On Friday, Koryolink saleswomen were setting up cellphone rental booths at Pyongyang's Sunan airport. One poster depicting a woman in a traditional Korean dress with a cellphone pressed to her ear read, "Here You Can Buy Koryolink Visitor Line."

During his recent four-day trip to North Korea, Schmidt urged North Korea to provide its people with better access to the global Internet. The Google executive chairman noted that it would be "very easy" for North Korea to offer Internet on the 3G cellphone network.

"As the world becomes increasingly connected, the North Korean decision to be virtually isolated is very much going to affect their physical world and their economic growth. It will make it harder for them to catch up economically," he wrote in a Google blog entry posted Sunday.

"It is their choice now, and in my view, it's time for them to start, or they will remain behind."

Explore further: Making smartphone browsing 20% faster while reducing power consumption by 40%

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NKorea allows limited Internet cell phone service

May 22, 2009

(AP) -- North Korea has begun limited Internet service for mobile phone users, a government Web site reported, months after launching an advanced network in cooperation with an Egyptian telecommunications company.

North Korea seeks social network publicity

Nov 14, 2011

North Korea's main government website has begun adding icons for users to post its statements fiercely criticising the United States and South Korea on popular social networks including Facebook.

The challenge of Googling North Korea

Jan 09, 2013

What is one of the world's most prominent advocates of Internet freedom doing in a country where unregulated access to information is generally either impossible or criminal?

Recommended for you

Microsoft beefs up security protection in Windows 10

4 hours ago

What Microsoft users in business care deeply about—-a system architecture that supports efforts to get their work done efficiently; a work-centric menu to quickly access projects rather than weather readings ...

US official: Auto safety agency under review

17 hours ago

Transportation officials are reviewing the "safety culture" of the U.S. agency that oversees auto recalls, a senior Obama administration official said Friday. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been criticized ...

Out-of-patience investors sell off Amazon

17 hours ago

Amazon has long acted like an ideal customer on its own website: a freewheeling big spender with no worries about balancing a checkbook. Investors confident in founder and CEO Jeff Bezos' invest-and-expand ...

Ebola.com domain sold for big payout

17 hours ago

The owners of the website Ebola.com have scored a big payday with the outbreak of the epidemic, selling the domain for more than $200,000 in cash and stock.

Hacker gets prison for cyberattack stealing $9.4M

21 hours ago

An Estonian man who pleaded guilty to orchestrating a 2008 cyberattack on a credit card processing company that enabled hackers to steal $9.4 million has been sentenced to 11 years in prison by a federal judge in Atlanta.

Magic Leap moves beyond older lines of VR

22 hours ago

Two messages from Magic Leap: Most of us know that a world with dragons and unicorns, elves and fairies is just a better world. The other message: Technology can be mindboggingly awesome. When the two ...

User comments : 0