Staff Reporters
Nov 22, 2011

North Korea set to register millionth cellphone user

PYONGYANG - Four years after North Korea's ban on phones had people thrown in prison camps or potentially executed for owning one, the state is about to register its one millionth cellphone user.

North Korea still bans calls into and out of the country
North Korea still bans calls into and out of the country

According to the report by Reuters most of the nation's users are located in Pyongyang and represent a considerable jump from only 70,000 users two years ago. 

When the government ended its ban in 2008, Egyptian company Orascom was signed onto a four-year contract to build a 3G network.

Like the rest of the world, North Korea's youth are the keenest of all to own a mobile phone and "can't live without it", said a report by the Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability.

Currently the biggest limit on cellphone adoption, said Reuters, is the cost. At US$350 a phone, the price is out of the question for most in a country where the average monthly income is about US$15.

"The possession of cellphones was not limited by class, but not many people have cellphones because they are just too expensive," said Kim Seong-hu, 40, who defected to South Korea in April. "Most commoners are satisfied with the landlines we have."

Despite the more open approach to communication, the North Korean government still doesn't allow dialing into or out of the country, and still bans the internet.

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