The prices of Chinese mobile phones in North Korea have skyrocketed recently due to increased crackdowns on international calls along the Sino-North Korean border, Daily NK has learned.  

“Two months of crackdowns targeting people engaging in smuggling activities or making phone calls to China has led to sharp increases in the prices of Chinese phones,” a North Hamgyong Province-based source told Daily NK on July 6. 

“These days Chinese mobile phones are generally being sold for around RMB 3,500 [around USD 498] in the border region. That’s an increase of RMB 2,000 [around USD 284] compared to the usual price,” the source explained, adding, “Many Chinese mobile phone sellers are raising their prices because there’s few new phones making it over the border.”

The source also told Daily NK that “North Koreans can buy the newest domestically-produced phones, but there’s little opportunity to buy Chinese ones because many sellers are just out of stock. This is why most smugglers and moneylenders are using cheap and old Chinese phones [these days].”

The source further reported that even people who own several Chinese mobile phones to avoid surveillance are not using them anymore because of the crackdowns. The heads of trade companies are also reluctant to use their Chinese mobile phones these days due to the government’s intensified surveillance of international calls.

Some North Korean defectors who have settled in South Korea have said that they had used old, cheap Chinese-made cellphones while living in North Korea.

*Translated by Gabriela Bernal

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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