The new "Madusan" smartphone. ("Foreign Trade")

North Korea’s new smartphone, the “Madusan,” is not yet available in stores, Daily NK has learned. 

NK Economy, a South Korean news website specializing in North Korean IT news, reported recently that the new smartphone was announced through this year’s second issue of “Foreign Trade,” a North Korean magazine.

In a phone conversation with Daily NK on Tuesday, a source in Pyongyang said the Madusan smartphone was released this year to mark late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il’s birthday on Feb. 16, as well as the 110th birthday of late North Korean founder Kim Il Sung on Apr. 15.

“Development of the mobile phone began in 2020,” he said.

North Korea had released two or three new smartphones per year from 2017 to 2019. However, no new phones were released over the last two years because the closure of the borders due to COVID-19 ended much of the country’s international trade.

North Korea has clearly faced difficulties releasing new products, yet it released a new smartphone to help commemorate Kim Jong Il’s and Kim Il Sung’s birthdays.

Madusan is a “revolutionary battle site” in the Anju district of South Pyongan Province. North Korea promotes it as the “second Paekdusan,” and has actively used the site to idolize the “Paekdu bloodline.”

The Madusan smartphone is not available in stores, according to the source.

“The phone isn’t sold in information centers or service centers yet,” he said. “It’s not a device ordinary people can buy.”

“Foreign Trade” is a magazine that introduces North Korean factories and exports to the outside world. North Korea revealed to overseas readers that it had released a new smartphone, but inside North Korea, the phone does not appear to be on sale. 

North Korea appears intent on demonstrating to the outside world that despite economic troubles and sanctions, the country continues to develop smartphones as normal, and that other economic activities are trouble-free as well. However, given the phone has yet to hit stores, the product does not appear to be in mass production.

“I don’t know how much the phone costs since it’s not in stores,” said the source. “However, people in the information centers say it’s around USD 750.

“Since it’s not on sale, few people are seeking it out,” he continued, adding, “But if they begin to sell it, there’s a class of people who will wait to buy one — that is, people in Pyongyang and Sinuiju, cadres, donju and officials with the unified command on non-socialist and anti-socialist behavior.”

Ascertaining the precise specifications of the phone is difficult given its not currently for sale. The source told Daily NK that the new phone boasts much improved security, takes good pictures and has plenty of storage.

“They say another feature is that [users] can’t delete their viewing history,” he said. “That’s to prevent currently available circumvention programs from working.”

This suggests that North Korean authorities have taken measures to block users from viewing unapproved programs or files.

North Korean smartphones record all documents, images and applications users access. Users cannot store or install unapproved files, either. 

However, some North Koreans have developed programs that delete the viewing history from smartphones or allow users to use unapproved applications, videos or files.

Translated by David Black. Edited by Robert Lauler.

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

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