#Pyongyang: Tweets, Instagram Start Coming Out Of North Korea’s 3G Network
North Korea loosened its infamous restrictions on visitors this week, opening up its only 3G network to tourists and even journalists. The totalitarian state also allowed visitors to bring their own mobile devices into the country, allowing unprecedented messages on social media to be broadcast directly from one of the most secretive countries in the world.
Jean H. Lee of the Associated Press is believed to have sent the first tweet ever through the Koryolink network, saying ”Hello world from comms center in #Pyongyang.”
Koryolink was established in 2008 by an exclusive contract with Egyptian company Orascom. By February 2012, they reported over 1 million subscribers, though average North Korean citizens can only use a closely censored national intranet, and not the “international” internet. Lee reports that she and her AP colleagues had been dogging their Orascom contacts for months as rumors grew that foreigners would be allowed to access the full internet through the network; and that they all held a small celebration in honor of the first tweet.
Perhaps even more surprisingly, the government did not stop Lee and her colleagues from using this technology around North Korean civilians.
This is just the latest example of technology increasing the visibility of North Korea and North Koreans. Google Earth recently increased the detail of their North Korea maps using satellite imagery, even exposing what are believed to be prison camps.
Since he assumed power after the death of his father, current leader Kim Jong-Un has cautiously been perceived as a reformer, and has emphasized science and technology as a road forward for the country.
Immediately after Lee’s triumphant tweets, North Korea’s 3G network was put to good use: confirming reports that flamboyant former NBA star Dennis Rodman was visiting the country.
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