Koryolink, the main North Korean cellular phone network provider, has officially launched its much-publicized Internet service for foreigners. Chinese news agency Xinhua, which has a bureau in Pyongyang, reported on the launch yesterday, the day the service went online.
According to the report, “Du Baiyu, a Xinhua reporter based in the DPRK, paid 75 Euro upon registration with the Korean-Egyptian joint venture company Koryolink and became the first foreigner to surf the Internet from a cellphone.”
Charges for the service vary, according to the report, ranging from “400 euro/10G, 250 euro/5G, to 150euro/2G for USB modem and 10 euro for SIM card per month.”
The Egyptian arm of the joint venture company Koryolink had reportedly been pushing the North Korean authorities to allow it to offer Internet services in the country for more than a year.
Following the launch, Jean Lee, the Associated Press’ Pyongyang bureau chief and someone who travels regularly to the North Korean capital, used the system to post an image of a sign welcoming the scientists and technicians who conducted the country’s third nuclear test to Pyongyang.
Many in Seoul are skeptical of the long-term benefits of the move, however. Kim Kyu Chul, who chairs South-North Forum, explained that he sees it as a simple measure to try and build foreign investment in the country.
He said, “For the sake of investment efficiency, North Korea needs to solve three problems: travel, communications and customs. Above all, to get more investment in special economic zones they needed to solve the mobile phone and Internet communications problem.”