North Korea released its “Arirang151” smartphone in June together with a promotional video. Daily NK has acquired one of the phones which was loaded with a short film promoting the technology.
It is unusual for North Korea to make promotional videos, as most multimedia features political propaganda or encouragement for residents to complete daily duties. The video clip highlights new efforts by state-run enterprises to sell to the donju (newly-affluent middle class) who are leading the country’s marketization efforts.
A young woman dressed in Korean traditional garments appears in the promotional video
found on the North Korean smartphone, ‘Arirang151.’
Image: Daily NK
The promotional video begins by showing important sites for North Korea’s regime propaganda including Mirae (Future) Scientists Street, accompanied by music and narration by a female voice. Young females donned in traditional Korean attire appear intermittently, using the Arirang151. The film also features computer generated graphics.
The video notes that, “Arirang151 is lightweight and stylish with a high resolution camera. It also has a wide screen and a larger memory chip (32 gigabyte) which is better than previous smartphones because it enables users to install more programs.”
The video then compares the Arirang151 with the “AP121,” a previous model. It notes, “The Arirang151 smartphone is thinner and lighter than the AP121, and it also uses the micro SIM card which is compatible with smartphones using mini SIM cards with a SIM converter.”
The video particularly emphasizes the high-resolution camera, noting, “The previous Arirang smartphones used to have protruding cameras, but the new model has a flat camera lens. The camera has high-resolution, enabling users to take beautiful and vivid pictures.” According to the video, while the AP121 featured an 8 megapixel camera (3264×2448 pixel), the Arirang151 has a 13 megapixel camera (4192 x 3104 pixel).
The video also notes that “you can add various effects to the pictures and edit them. You can also play video and music on a refined and wider screen. Furthermore, the battery capacity has been improved, so the phone can be used for a longer time.”
The video adds that the Arirang151 comes with various applications installed, including ‘Paektu Mountain Literature,’ ‘The Kwangmyong Great Dictionary,’ and ‘Kwangmyong Books.’ The phone also features games including ‘High Speed Strategy,’ ‘Candy Match,’ and ‘3D Mario.’
Also included is regime propaganda with “12 wallpaper images showing the symbolic monuments of the Songun (military-first) period, including the Science Technology Complex and Mirae Scientists Street.”
According to the video, Arirang151 can be purchased at the “Arirang Information Technology Store” and the “Arirang Information Technology Exchange Center,” located in Mirae Scientists Street as well as at the “Arirang Information Technology store” which has recently opened in the first terminal at Pyongyang International Airfield. This suggests that the Arirang151 is primarily targeted at wealthy citizens of Pyongyang.
When Daily NK showed the video to North Korean defectors in South Korea, most responded positively, noting that North Korea seems to be genuinely trying to improve the product. In addition, the fact that North Korea is developing new smartphones indicates that there are an increasing number of residents who can afford to purchase such expensive devices.
One of the defectors said on condition of anonymity for security reasons, “In North Korea, smartphones have just started to become popular, so consumers are not really aware of differences in features. Nevertheless, the video compares the differences between the older model and the newer model in detail, suggesting that North Korea has ambitions to improve its information and communication technology.”
Another North Korean defector, who, for his personal safety identified himself only as Mr. B, said, “The fact that North Korea is continuously investing in developing smartphones means that there is demand. There is an increasing demand for smartphones among the donju who need the phones for business activities.”
The development of smartphones is expected to elicit curiosity amongst North Korean residents about information and communications technology. “It’s not yet possible to search the internet with North Korean smartphones or freely communicate with people due to censorship, but residents will gradually become accustomed to the concept of free communication. I hope that smartphones will become more popular so that they become a means of connecting and enabling North Korean residents,” Mr. B added.