Smartphones are driving major shifts in North Korean lifestyles, Daily NK sources recently reported. 

“The mobile phone is single-handedly changing our lifestyles,” a Pyongyang-based source told Daily NK on Tuesday. “We can see the prices in markets all over the country, and we can send photographs and videos of products. The mobile phone is now a necessity for us.” 

Daily NK has previously reported on the growing perception that mobile phones are a required item for many North Koreans.

The source in Pyongyang emphasized that the mobile phone has made it easier for North Koreans to communicate than ever before.

You make calls anywhere within the country with a mobile phone so it makes it easy to exchange news,” the source said. “We’ve entered an electronic age, and we’ve left the days of sending a letter and waiting a month for it to arrive.

The source also noted that North Koreans only use the post office like they did before the mid-1990s to send packages.

“You don’t see anyone sending letters anymore. There aren’t as many sending packages either because now many people use delivery services,” the source added. 

University students no longer need to spend time looking for information in a mass of printed materials. There are an increasing number of students who use the search function on their smartphones for their research, other Daily NK sources in Pyongyang reported.

“Researchers and technicians no longer have to waste energy traveling long distances to libraries to look for the information they need,” said one of the sources. “Homemakers can also use cooking apps to learn how to cook, so they’re spending more and more time looking at their mobile phones.” 

Of course, not all of the effects of smartphones have been positive. Because smartphones come with decent-quality cameras, fewer and fewer North Koreans are buying cameras. “People taking more photos with phones, so photographers who used to earn a living taking photos are struggling to adjust to new jobs,” the source said. 

Excessive mobile gaming is also taking its toll on family relationships.  

“Handheld gaming devices or phones have reduced the frequency of conversations among family members, and because it is difficult to fully communicate what you mean through text messages, it can sometimes lead to misunderstandings,” another Pyongyang-based source said. 

The source also reported there are cases where parents end up doing their children’s homework for them, because their children have become so addicted to smartphone games.

“There are also sometimes arguments between family members because some men will come home from work and spend all their time playing games,” the source added.  

*Translated by Violet Kim

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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