North Korea isn’t especially known for its mobile phone technology, especially compared to its neighbor to the South.
However, a Japanese new think tank report says that the country has of late seen a surge in the popularity of mobile phone games.
According to the report by the Japan Center for Economic Research (JCER), as cited and translated by NK News, North Korea is entering “an age of smartphones,” despite government repression and relatively weak technological infrastructure.
Two of the more popular games, Taekwondo Competition and Badminton Competition, enable users to play one another over Bluetooth connections, the report said.
North Korea lifted its ban on mobile phones in 2008. Since then, the nation has made attempts to grow its “knowledge economy.” The report also cited figures from the Korean Development Bank Future Strategy Research Institute, that there were six million mobile phone subscriptions in North Korea as of the end of 2018. The country’s population as of earlier this year was about 25.8 million.
“Facing the triple whammy of economic sanctions, COVID-19, and recent natural disasters, North Korea has set mid-to-long-term economic development plans and continued to invest in the fields of science and technology,” the Japanese report said.
North Koreans, however, do not have access to the App Store, so the games are created in North Korea. The phones, in most instances, are not connected to the Internet, and the country’s wireless network is believed to be the equivalent of 3G, which was the top standard in the United States a decade ago.
The Japan report also stated while 80.4 percent of households in urban areas in North Korea have smartphones, although that number drops to 50.6 percent in more rural areas of the country.
North Korea’s Supreme People’s Assembly, earlier this month, reportedly passed a law “boosting sci-tech policies, forestry policies and control over telecom networks,” although the actual details of what the new law does remain unclear.
“The law on rejecting the reactionary ideology and culture specifies the principles to be certainly observed by all the institutions, enterprises, organizations and citizens in further cementing our ideological, revolutionary and class positions by thoroughly preventing the inroads and spread of the anti-socialist ideology and culture and firmly maintaining our idea, spirit and culture,” Yonhap News Agency quoted the state media as saying.
This fall, one report stated that North Korea has launched a major crackdown on Chinese-made cell phones, with one government lecture recently threatening that those “caught in the act talking on the phone with those in a foreign country” would face punishment.
Back in October, North Korea unveiled a new tablet computer, which is called the Naenara 101, or “My Country 101.”
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for the National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.