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Mobile phone subscriptions in N. Korea quadruple in one year: operator

All Headlines 09:33 November 09, 2010

SEOUL, Nov. 9 (Yonhap) -- The number of mobile phone users in North Korea has more than quadrupled in a year, an operator said in a report seen Tuesday, illustrating the fast growth of a tech-savvy generation in the reclusive communist state.

According to the third quarter earnings report by Cairo-based Orascom Telecom Holding, released on Sunday, the number of subscribers in North Korea increased from 69,261 in September last year to 301,199 in the same month this year.

Orascom operates a joint mobile service with the local Koryolink in North Korea. Orascom said Koryolink "successfully launched the Video Calling service to the market, which resulted in a high level of demand, especially from the youth segment.

"Koryolink enriched its distribution network during Q3 2010 by adding two new shops inside Pyongyang and one more shop outside Pyongyang to reach a total of 13 shops and 13 indirect sales outlets covering 8 main cities in addition to the capital itself."

Despite the growth, the overall "mobile penetration" remains at 1 percent in the country that has a per-capita GDP of US$1,900 and a population of 22.8 million, Orascom said.

North Korea first launched the mobile phone service in Pyongyang in November 2002, but banned it after a deadly explosion in the northern Ryongchon train station in April 2004, possibly out of concern that it could be used in a plot against the regime.

In 2008, the country reversed its policy and introduced a 3G mobile phone network in a joint venture with Orascom. The regime is reportedly building a factory to produce its own mobile phones.

samkim@yna.co.kr
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