North Korea Unveils the Arirang, the Painfully Ironic Android SmartphoneBy: Bennett Rieser - August 12, 2013
North Korea’s supreme leader Kim Jong Un was observed visiting a factory in Pyongyang where the Arirang, North Korea’s new Android-powered smartphone, was unveiled.
The accompanying images of the Korean dictator have generated an interesting discussion, as no apparent electronics manufacturing machinery can be observed, and workers are only seen inspecting completed phones in contrast with the Korean Central News Agency’s official reports about the visit.
The agency’s official remarks, which include such gems as: “Looking at the trademark “Arirang” inscribed on the hand phone, he [Kim Jong Un] noted that mass-production of goods with DPRK trademark can instill national pride and self-respect into the Korean people,” and “How nice to see hand phones being successfully produced with indigenous technology, he said, adding it is of educational significance in making people love Korean things,” simply reek of instilled propaganda. Analysts have speculated about the Arirang’s origins, including the possibility that the phones are made to order in China before being shipped to the factory for a fake inspection.
Digital Trends notes that urges from Google’s Eric Schmidt seem to be receiving attention; Schmidt visited the fledgling state in January and suggested they loosen their internet restrictions.
Unfortunately for North Koreans who would seek to own an Arirang for themselves, the opportunity may not come up for some time. The Washington Post points out that cellphone data services are illegal in North Korea, making this strangely patriotic project awfully ironic.
That said, just because such networks are illegal does not mean North Koreans are not willing to turn to black markets to fuel their western desires. The Post speculates that with more-than-capable black markets supplying the demand for smartphones, the North Korean government has released the Arirang as a way to control and manage the information disseminated to its people as well as reducing the amount of black market phones.
Does this development mean the North Korean leadership will get an Instagram like Syria’s presidency?