The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

North Korea's Smartphone Likely Made in China

A North Korean phone displayed by Kim Jong Un was likely made by a Chinese manufacturer

2 min read
North Korea's Smartphone Likely Made in China

North Korea's isolated "hermit kingdom" has finally manufactured its first home-grown smartphone—or has it? An expert on North Korean technology says the new smartphone was probably made in China and shipped to a North Korean factory for display.

Recent photos have shown Kim Jong Un, North Korea's leader, inspecting the "Arirang" phone named after a popular Korean folk song. The new phone apparently runs on Google's Android operating system and has a built-in camera, according to BBC News.

But the handset's lineage is probably Chinese rather than Korean, says Martyn Williams, owner of the website North Korean Tech. Williams pointed out how the photos of Kim Jong Un's visit to the factory in the capital Pyongyang only show workers inspecting the new phones rather than performing any manufacturing activities.

Williams previously showed how North Korea's "homemade" tablet, called the Samjiyon, actually originated from a Hong Kong manufacturer. (Still, North Korea's supposed technical expertise isn't all a lie—the country seems to have a small but growing IT industry that accepts foreign contracts.)

The new Arirang phone will likely serve customers of North Korea's Koryolink domestic mobile phone service, operated by the Egyptian firm Orascom. The Egyptian telecom claimed to provide service to over 600 000 North Koreans as of June 2011.

Koryolink customers face a number of limitations, according to a 2012 report titled "A Quiet Opening." All calls are monitored by North Korean authorities, and Koryolink phones cannot make international calls or access the Internet.

However, many North Koreans living near the Chinese border have used illegal Chinese phones to make international calls to friends, relatives or business partners. Such phone calls on the illegal phones have allowed North Koreans to conduct black market trade, ask for foreign money transfers, find out the latest international news, and even plan defections.

Photo: KCNA/Reuters

The Conversation (0)

Deep Learning Could Bring the Concert Experience Home

The century-old quest for truly realistic sound production is finally paying off

12 min read
Vertical
Image containing multiple aspects such as instruments and left and right open hands.
Stuart Bradford
Blue

Now that recorded sound has become ubiquitous, we hardly think about it. From our smartphones, smart speakers, TVs, radios, disc players, and car sound systems, it’s an enduring and enjoyable presence in our lives. In 2017, a survey by the polling firm Nielsen suggested that some 90 percent of the U.S. population listens to music regularly and that, on average, they do so 32 hours per week.

Behind this free-flowing pleasure are enormous industries applying technology to the long-standing goal of reproducing sound with the greatest possible realism. From Edison’s phonograph and the horn speakers of the 1880s, successive generations of engineers in pursuit of this ideal invented and exploited countless technologies: triode vacuum tubes, dynamic loudspeakers, magnetic phonograph cartridges, solid-state amplifier circuits in scores of different topologies, electrostatic speakers, optical discs, stereo, and surround sound. And over the past five decades, digital technologies, like audio compression and streaming, have transformed the music industry.

Keep Reading ↓Show less
{"imageShortcodeIds":[]}