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KEI Podcasts

When North Korea Embraces Mobile Technology: Yonho Kim

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Show Notes

We imagine North Korea as a country that is carrying on not only a conflict left over from the Cold War, but also a decrepit legacy economy from the past. So when recent travelers reported seeing digital billboards at shopping malls in Pyongyang, it caught many international observers by surprise. Moreover, we see everyday people in Pyongyang using cellphones on the street.

We’ve known for a while that USB sticks are used to smuggle South Korean pop culture content into North Korea – so we knew that some North Koreans have computer devices. But what has become more evident in recent years is the extent to which mobile technology has been embraced not just illicitly by the North Korean people, but also formally by the state as part of its economic plan.

KEI's non-resident fellow Yonho Kim sits down with Korean Kontext to discuss the evolution of cell phone adoption in North Korea and how it has changed society, particularly in the economic space where mobile technology has revolutionized the nascent private sector. His recent paper on this topic for the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea is available in the link below:

KEI also recommends an accompanying paper titled "Information Technology and Social Controls in North Korea" by Scott Thomas Bruce from 2014, which you can find in the link below:


March 29, 2019