Daily NK reviews North Korea’s “Pyongyang 3404” tablet computer

Pyongyang 3404 tablet computer. Image: Daily NK

As the popularity of smartphones continues to grow in North Korea, many different options are flooding the market. Daily NK recently obtained a North Korean tablet PC called “Pyongyang 3404,” which was previously unknown in South Korea. It has been virtually unheard of in the outside world because North Korea’s state media have not reported on it.

North Korea’s Checom Technology Joint Venture Company, which produces telephones and MP3 players, manufactures the Pyongyang 3404, a cellular-type tablet that can make voice calls. North Koreans generally refer to tablet PCs as “book-size computers” but this product is referred to as a mobile phone due to its ability to make calls.

Pyongyang 3404 uses a Chinese electronic company’s chipset called Rockchip RK3188T’s. Its performance ability is slightly lower than Samsung’s 2012 Galaxy Note 10.1 and is comparable to an iPhone 5.

Comparison of specifications between North Korea’s tablet PC “Pyongyang 3404” and Samsung’s tablet PC “Note 10.1.”

Pyongyang 3404’s operating system is Android Kitkat (4.4.2), which was released in September 2013. Pyongyang 3404 appears to have been developed in 2014, considering that the operating system in 2015 released on another North Korean tablet (Myohyang) features Lollipop 5.1. The most recent Android operating system is Pie (9.0), which was released last August.

Product manual for Pyongyang 3404 Image: Daily NK

In addition, the Pyongyang 3404 is equipped with a Digital Multimedia Broadcasting feature. “This mobile phone has a built-in digital television signal changer,” the product manual states. “In any location, digital television can be watched using the built-in antenna.”

Considering that North Korea has begun seriously broadcasting digital content from January 2015, it appears that the Pyongyang 3404 was released on the same date and has started selling to consumers. Channels that can be viewed include Korean Central TV, Ryongnamsan TV (education channel), Mansudae TV (art, movies, concerts) and Athletic TV.

The Pyongyang 3404 can be used like a PC by connecting the keyboard and mouse and documents can be created with the “Office Work” app.

There are many different apps pre-installed including the mobile payment system ‘Ullim 1.0” installed. Image: Daily NK

On the other hand, significant measures have been taken to prevent the spread of information through the tablet.

First, transferring a file is possible by mounting the tablet’s SD card into a PC but if the mount is disabled, the file is automatically deleted, which is a factory setting to prevent the tablet from sharing outside information.

However, considering the fact that several APK files (Android installation file type) were discovered in tablet PCs, it appears possible to download APK files, and there might be an app store within North Korea’s intranet or a service that bypasses the security feature and installs APK files.

It is known that North Korea limits smartphone features to prevent the spread of information and keeps tabs on their users, so it is likely that the Pyongyang 3404 will have similar restrictions.

Florian Grunow, a researcher with German security company ERNW, said in an information freedom seminar at the Seoul Press Center in 2015 hosted by International Solidarity for Freedom of Information in North Korea that “every file [on Ullim] has an electronic signature. Therefore, in order to watch a film or open a document, an electronic signature is required. Electronic signature technology allows one to find out who used the tablet to take what kind of picture and whether they modified the document or not; everything can be tracked.”

Considering that both Ullim and Pyongyang 3404 use Android Kitkat (4.4.2), it is likely that they employ similar technology.

*Translated by Yongmin Lee

Mun Dong Hui is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about his articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.