In the world of celebrity endorsements, some high-profile people -- authoritarian dictators, for instance -- are to be avoided at all costs.
So when a photo released by North Korea's Central News Agency last week showed Kim Jong Un with a smartphone tucked in just past his elbow (see above), smartphone manufacturers were quick to deny ownership of the device.
A company representative for Samsung, a tech giant in South Korea, didn't mince words: "It's not a Samsung phone," the person told Agence France-Presse. Nor does it appear to be an iPhone, designed by American-based Apple.
South Korean government officials believe the phone was likely manufactured by Taiwan's HTC, the AFP reports.
However, HTC seems unwilling to either confirm or deny that conclusion, telling Wired the company isn't "going to get into a discussion about the device but [it] appreciate[s] the support of all users."
“It appears that Kim, his family, and some inner-circle officials are using mobile phones or smartphones that can access the Internet and send some digital data,” an unnamed official at South Korea's Ministry of Unification told the Korea JoongAng Daily. “Or maybe Kim was given a special mobile phone that is capable of Internet services.”
North Korea allowed Orascom Telecom, an Egyptian company, to begin providing mobile phone services to the country in 2008. With the high price of phones, however, it's unclear how many citizens actually have access to cell services. By November 2012, the service claimed to have more than 1 million subscribers, the company's CEO, Naguib Sawaris, told Forbes.
PHOTO of Kim Jong Un and his smartphone: