About 48,000 North Koreans have subscribed to the mobile phone service that started in North Korea last December, VOA reports, quoting data released by the service provider.
However, officials of the North Korean Workers' Party or the government are reportedly banned from using mobile phones for security reasons.And ordinary North Korean residents, whose monthly pay is about 4,000 North Korean won (around US$30), cannot afford the service due to the high price of handsets, which cost US$300-500, and the subscription fee.
"We understand that mobile phones are used chiefly by foreigners, wealthy people, and trade functionaries," a South Korean government official said.
Orascom, the Egyptian telecom firm that runs it, plans to expand the service area from Pyongyang to the whole of North Korea by the end of this year, VOA said. North Korean phone users buy prepaid phone cards and can send text messages.