NKorea to allow mobile Internet for foreigners

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 21, 2013 at 10:39 pm •  Published: February 21, 2013
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Soon after Schmidt's visit, Google unveiled maps of North Korea with more details based on contributions from foreigners using satellite images and publicly available information to map the country. Before, North Korea was left mostly blank in Google Maps but with the update, Pyongyang and major North Korean cities are shown with street names, parks, roads, train stops and monuments.

Cellphone use has multiplied in North Korea since Orascom built a 3G network more than four years ago. More than a million people are now using mobile phones in North Korea, where the network now covers most major cities, according to Orascom.

Chinese-made Huawei cellphones sold by Koryolink are not cheap, with the most basic model costing about $150, and the governments restricts North Koreans from phoning abroad or foreigners from their cellphones. Still, mobile phones have become a must-have accessory among not only the elite in Pyongyang but also the middle class in cities such as Kaesong and Wonsan.

Foreigners, meanwhile, can now purchase SIM cards at the airport or at Koryolink shops for 50 euros ($70). Calls abroad range from 0.38 euros a minute to Switzerland and France and more than 5 euros a minute to the U.S. Calls to South Korea remain prohibited.

Starting next week, foreigners will be allowed to purchase monthly mobile Internet data plans for use with a USB modem or on mobile devices using their SIM cards. Prices for the service haven't been announced yet.

The expansion of cellphone and Internet services — at least for foreigners — comes as North Korea promotes the development of science and technology as a means of improving its moribund economy.

Late leader Kim Jong Il was revealed to have been a Mac user. His Macbook Pro, or a replica, is enshrined at the Kumsusan mausoleum where his body lies in state.

Current leader Kim Jong Un, meanwhile, was shown in a recent photo with a more mobile computing accessory: a smartphone.

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Follow AP's bureau chief for Pyongyang and Seoul at www.twitter.com/newsjean



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