Quantcast
  

Thursday, April 24, 2014         

 Print   Email   Comment | View 6 Comments   Most Popular   Save   Post   Retweet

Skepticism as North Korea shows home-grown smartphone


POSTED:


SEOUL, South Korea >> North Korea's announcement that it is mass producing a home-grown smartphone has been met with skepticism in the tech industry in South Korea and abroad.

The North's state media last week showed leader Kim Jong Un inspecting "Arirang" phones at a Pyongyang factory. The Korean Central News Agency's Aug. 10 report said the factory began manufacturing smartphones "a few days ago" and they were already in high demand.

North Korea has promoted the development of science and technology as a means of improving its moribund economy. It says it developed a tablet computer last year and has its own Red Star operating system.

But access to the global Internet is severely restricted and mobile phones used on the state-authorized network cannot make overseas calls. The North's Intranet gives access to government sanctioned sites and works with its own browsers, search engine and email programs, according to South Korea's Unification Ministry.

Factory workers in photos released by the state news agency are inspecting and testing finished phones but no manufacturing is shown, said tech expert Martyn Williams on the northkoreatech.org blog.

"Despite KCNA's reporting that the handsets are made at the factory, they are probably made to order by a Chinese manufacturer," said Williams, who writes for PC World and other publications.

South Korean computer experts say North Korea is strong enough in software technology to have launched cyberattacks that disrupted banking and government websites in the South but it lags in hardware capabilities behind South Korea.

The 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce and the Korean Peninsula remains technically at war. Since then, the South has prospered and produced giant corporations such as Samsung Electronics Co., which is the world's biggest maker of smartphones, computer memory chips and displays. The North's economy has languished under socialist central planning though the capital Pyongyang is an oasis of relative affluence.

North Korea has shown a persistent interest in computer technology since the early 1980s so it is conceivable that a country, which has launched long-range missiles and tested nuclear weapons has also developed a smartphone, said Kang Ho Jye, a research fellow at Ewha Institute of Unification Studies.

But it might face difficulties in securing the necessary components for mass production.

"If people believe it is impossible for North Korea to make smartphones because it lags in technology, that's not right," he said "If people believe it is impossible because they are wondering how North Korea supplied components, then that makes sense."

North Korea said the Arirang phone features "Korean style" apps and can be used for "communications and learning." It sports a high-resolution camera and a touch screen.

Kim Mun-gu, a manager at a South Korean mobile phone company, said the Arirang smartphone appears to be using the Android operating system.

He said the photos aren't convincing as proof the North is manufacturing the phones.

"It looks too clean for a factory. If it's a factory, there should be components. There seemed to be machines but I can't tell whether they are operating or not," he said.

The "May 11 Factory" where North Korea says it is producing smartphones has been promoted as the country's hub for research, development and production of high-tech electronics. Kim's previous visit to the factory was in July 2011 to see what state media called an automated production system for LCD televisions — an announcement also doubted abroad.

Kim, who became leader after his father Kim Jong Il's death in late 2011, said making phones based on home-grown technology "can instill national pride and self-respect into the Korean people," according to KCNA.







 Print   Email   Comment | View 6 Comments   Most Popular   Save   Post   Retweet

COMMENTS
(6)
You must be subscribed to participate in discussions
By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. Because only subscribers are allowed to comment, we have your personal information and are able to contact you. If your comments are inappropriate, you may receive a warning, and if you persist with such comments you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email commentfeedback@staradvertiser.com.
Leave a comment

Please login to leave a comment.
cojef wrote:
Very doubtful that North Korea is capable of developing a components supply base to mass produce smartphones for a limited local consumer base. Of course in a communist world where profit is not the motive who can tell??
on August 16,2013 | 06:46AM
Makua wrote:
With this the consumer base will grow and the commoner will begin to connect to the realities of the world that lie beyond the borders of the North. Oh, how things will change.
on August 16,2013 | 07:03AM
IAmSane wrote:
I'm guessing the Internet on these phones are disabled, or these phones are only available for those high up in the KWP hierarchy, who already have Internet access anyway and will do nothing because they have a vested interest in keeping things in NK status quo.
on August 16,2013 | 01:12PM
loquaciousone wrote:
Kim Dum Dum's smart phones are not so smart.
on August 16,2013 | 07:16AM
purigorota wrote:
What you don't see in the picture is the string.
on August 16,2013 | 08:05AM
sloturle wrote:
It sounds like they want a better way to track there people also.
on August 16,2013 | 11:21AM
IN OTHER NEWS
Breaking News
Blogs
Political Radar
Phased in

Political Radar
Palolo v. Pauoa

Political Radar
Palolo v. Pauoa

Career Changers
Must Sea TV

Political Radar
HB 1700 — Day 4

Political Radar
Pass

Warrior Beat
Hammer time