The world's most reclusive nation is about to get more connected. North Korea’s state-run news outlet Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) released new photos of leader Kim Jong Un examining the nation’s first smartphone on-site, at a factory.
According to the Washington Post, the pariah nation’s new “Arirang” smartphone is a clone comparable to the popular Android models, and it's named after a popular Korean folk song. North Korean media were on-site at the factory where Kim made his inspection, documenting as Kim held the phone, looked at the packaging, and oversaw factory workers.
Cell phone data and service is not available to all citizens and is in fact illegal for most. Generally speaking, only well-connected or government-affiliated North Koreans have cell phones. Though the phones are clearly branded for North Koreans, North Korea analyst Martyn Williams says that the phones may actually be made where most of the rest of the world’s phones are made: China. Writing on his blog, Williams says that the phones are “probably made to order by a Chinese manufacturer and shipped to the [North Korean] factory where they are inspected before going on sale.”
According to KCNA, the smartphone venture is a little over two years in the making. Kim made his first visit to the factory two years ago, accompanying his father, the late Kim Jong Il. KCNA writes that the Arirang phones are made domestically, writing that Kim “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.”
While the detailed specs of the phone are not clear, Korean news is saying that it does have the ability to capture photos “as their camera function has high pixels.” The move toward locally produced phones is seen as yet another way for the Kim regime to harness control over the country. While technology has been slowly creeping over the Chinese-North Korean border, Kim hopes that producing state-approved devices will help curb further technological takeover from the outside.