08/12/2013 02:37 pm ET Updated Aug 12, 2013

North Korea Smartphone Coming? Android Clone 'Arirang' Unveiled To International Skepticism

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un recently announced the launch of his nation's first "smartphone," despite the fact that most North Koreans cannot access the Internet or make international calls.

An official photo shoot shows Kim touring what is said to be a local smartphone factory and inspecting the Android clone device, which is called “Arirang" after a Korean folk song, according to Sky News.

North Korea's state-run media group, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), reported that the Arirang is a "touch hand phone" that comes with a convenient, user-friendly applications program and a high-pixel camera. KCNA also claimed that the factory in the photo shoot has already begun production of the phone.

North Koreans have reportedly become increasingly enamored of cell phone technology, and Kim Jong Un himself was photographed a few months ago with what appeared to be a smartphone on his desk. However, The Washington Post notes that the existence of a high-tech, North Korean smartphone factory seems unlikely. Martyn Williams, a North Korea analyst, told the Post that it's far more likely the phones will be manufactured in China and then secretly shipped to North Korea.

phone korea

Even if the phones do surface in North Korean stores, it's unclear what they could actually do there. According to The Telegraph, the country's first cell phones weren't introduced until 2008 -- six years after the country's internal web service, called the Kwangmyong, was launched. Today, North Korean mobiles can be used to call each other, but not outsiders. The country's intranet is restricted to government-approved sites.

Last year's launch of North Korea's first tablet showed the limitations of new technology in the country. Apparently powered by the Android platform, the tablet is fairly fast, includes popular games such as "Angry Birds" and has a passable camera, according to The New York Times. But the device cannot access the wider Internet, forcing users to connect to the internal Kwangmyong network and government-run television broadcasts.


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