North Koreans peruse cell phones on offer
North Koreans browse for cell phones on sale at a shop. (Sogwang)

North Korea appears to have delayed an update of its mobile phone operating system because the software has failed to meet set technological standards, Daily NK has learned.

A source in North Korea told Daily NK on Monday that the authorities “did not carry out the operating system update for mobile phones that they said they would do at the end of last year,” and that “the agency in charge didn’t explain why.” 

Daily NK reported in August of last year that North Korea planned to update its mobile phone operating system at the end of 2022. 

However, the operating system update appears to have been delayed, with no official explanation given by the government. 

According to Daily NK’s source, the new operating system update failed to meet the technological standards of the Ministry of State Security’s communication and electronic surveillance bureaus or the Cabinet’s IT bureau.

“I understand that a Ministry of State Security meeting led to a delay in the operating system update to this year,” he said.

North Korean smartphones are subject to strong security measures that prevent users from playing foreign media files. 

However, some North Koreans secretly install circumvention programs to play foreign media, which is why they prefer older phones without proper security measures.

The North Korean government, aware of what people are doing, has been engaged in intensive crackdown on the consumption of foreign media. The update to the mobile operating system was aimed at putting the brakes on such activity. 


Daily NK’s source said people have no idea when the update will be released.

“The Ministry of State Security has taken charge in collaboration with other relevant agencies to complete [the update] in the first half of the year at the latest,” he said.

North Koreans are reportedly showing little interest in the upcoming update.

The source said that people are suffering from extreme economic difficulties and hardships, so updating their mobile operating system is not an immediate concern.

In fact, many people are completely uninterested as to why the authorities failed to carry out the update as announced, he said. 

“Some people actually feel better that the update was delayed, and a handful of people even say they are worried about what kind of massive surveillance system will be installed,” he explained. 

Translated by David Black. Edited by Robert Lauler. 

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Mun Dong Hui is one of Daily NK's full-time reporters and covers North Korean technology and human rights issues, including the country's political prison camp system. Mun has a M.A. in Sociology from Hanyang University and a B.A. in Mathematics from Jeonbuk National University. He can be reached at