Friday, February 27, 2009

Mobile phones more visible in North Korean capital

Mobile phones are becoming more visible in reclusive North Korea following the launch of a new network by an Egyptian telecommunications company. But North Korean consumers aren't able to use them to call outside the country — or even beyond the capital of Pyongyang.

Still, the Koryolink system's launch marked the first time that North Koreans have been allowed to use cell phones since a previous, short-lived mobile service was shut down without explanation in 2004. It had more than 6,500 North Korean users as of mid-February, according to Koryolink officials.

Mobile phone use in North Korea — probably the world's most tightly controlled country — comes with restrictions. Phones do not allow contact with the outside world, or with the special telephone networks that foreigners are normally permitted to use inside North Korea.

A phone now costs 240 euros ($304) for a package including a Chinese-made Huawei mobile phone handset, a SIM card, and network subscription — 100 euros less than the previous price. The euro being the preferred hard currency for settling prices of many goods and services in North Korea.

[International Herald Tribune]

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