Demand for ‘Ullim’ tablet among youth exceeds supply

Daily NK recently obtained the “Ullim,” one of a growing
number of models released by North Korea’s fledgling tablet industry, and
learned that the device is beating out its rivals among the country’s youth

The lock (left) and home (right) screen of the “Ullim” obtained by Daily NK.

Unlike other models such as “Myohyang” and “Ryonghung,”
“Ullim,” which means echo in Korean, comes with a variety of games and study
materials and thus appeals to a younger base, according to the Daily NK source
who secured the device.

“Some cash-strapped university students sell their used
tablets for roughly the original purchase price. The demand is so high that
even secondhand ones are easy to sell,” she noted.

The tablet comes with multiple pre-installed applications: three dictionaries, one for language, science, and technology, respectively ; three e-books
including a series on Mt. Paektu’s wildlife; two respective education videos
and piano practice apps; a calculator (simple and advanced versions available),
as well as a number of other programs catering to younger tastes.

“Rich homemakers like ‘UIlim’ too,” the source added. “The
cooking app offers detailed recipes with instructional photos on how to prepare countless dishes.”  

However, demand for the device, released in early 2016, far
outweighs the available supply. “They will flat out tell you at state electronics shops
that the ‘Ullim’ supply is deficient, especially compared to that of
‘Myonghyang’ and ‘Ryonghung.’”

The state response has been to restrict sales across most
regions of the North. “They [shop staff] won’t let you buy more than one for any reason.
They’ll actually reject your money, citing your previous purchase of an ‘Ullim’
as grounds for refusal,” she said, explaining that this has fanned skepticism
about the woeful inadequacies of the official manufacturing sector among
disgruntled consumers.

After trying out the ‘Ullim’ tablet for herself, Daily NK’s
intern reporter Park Seong Ae (24), who is originally from North Korea, posited
that the gadget would likely be popular with younger people because they can
enjoy games on the go, but that she personally found the touch recognition and
display quality inferior [to foreign equivalents].

“Within the North, people would only be able to connect to
the state intranet, which seriously diminishes the practicality of such a
machine. It’s really more like an e-dictionary or gaming device,” she said.

“Most of the games appear to be replications of existing ones
developed by other countries slightly modified to have North Korean names. The
local music on the device is outdated, too, so I’d wager that the novelty of
‘Ullim’ will be ephemeral.”

A version of janggi (a Korean game similar to chess) called “Ryumyung” (left) and a cooking
 app (right) featured on “Ullim.”

Kang Mi Jin
Kang Mi Jin is a North Korean defector turned journalist who fled North Korea in 2009. She has a degree in economics and writes largely on marketization and economy-related issues for Daily NK. Questions about her articles can be directed to