Foreigners can now take own phones to North Korea
BEIJING (AFP) – Foreigners visiting North Korea can now take their own mobile phones into the country, Chinese state media reported Sunday, citing an employee with the operator of the country’s mobile network.
A technician with Koryolink, the North Korean-Egyptian joint venture that operates the 3G phone network, told China’s official Xinhua news agency that the move took effect on January 7.
“We have tried hard to negotiate with the Korean security side, and got the approval recently,” the technician, identified as an Egyptian, said, adding: “It has nothing to do with the Google trip.”
Earlier this month, Google chairman Eric Schmidt made a high profile visit to North Korea and said in Beijing after the trip he told officials in the North that the country would not develop unless it embraced Internet freedom.
“Once the Internet starts, citizens in a country can certainly build on top of it,” Schmidt said. “The government has to do something. It has to make it possible for people to use the Internet which the government in North Korea has not yet done.”
Highly secretive North Korea has a domestic Intranet service with a limited number of users. Analysts say access to the Internet is for the country’s super-elite only, meaning a few hundred people or maybe 1,000 at most.
The Egyptian technician said foreigners need to fill out a form to provide their phone’s IMEI – International Mobile Station Equipment Identity – number with North Korea’s customs agency to bring in their personal device.
Previously, foreigners were required to leave their phones with customs and pick them up when leaving the country, the report said.