July 14, 2023
SEOUL – A new North Korean smartphone bearing a resemblance to Samsung smartphones called the Samtaesong 8 was recently featured on the North’s state-run Korean Central Television.
The phone made its first appearance in a program that promoted the proper and safe usage of smartphones.
According to the North’s Korean dictionary, “samtaesong” refers to the “three bright stars” – North Korean founder Kim Il-sung, his wife Kim Jong-suk and his son Kim Jong-il – of their alleged armed resistance against Japanese occupation.
The Samtaesong8 features an exterior design similar to smartphones manufactured by South Korea’s Samsung Electronics or China’s Huawei. It has dual cameras on the back and one on the front.
While other North Korean smartphone models such as the Pyongyang Touch and Arirang have been reported by the media, the Samtaesong 8 is a new addition.
It has not been confirmed whether the Samtaesong 8 is manufactured in North Korea or imported from China.
Smartphones in North Korea do not have internet access other than the North Korean intranet which can be accessed through a SIM card.
The KCTV advised North Korean viewers to wait 1 to 2 seconds before answering a phone call to avoid electromagnetic waves, adjust the brightness for the eyes, and limit children’s screen time.
Meanwhile, in a photo released by the state-run Korean Central News Agency on Wednesday, the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was spotted using what appears to be a foldable phone resembling one from Samsung Galaxy or Huawei.
About 6.5 million to 7 million North Koreans are estimated to have access to cellular networks, according to a 2022 report by the nonprofit think tank Stimson Center.
North Korea is believed to have begun introducing mobile networks in 2002, but they didn’t take off until 2008 Koryolink – a joint venture between an Egyptian telecommunications company and the North Korea Post and Telecommunications Corp. — was launched.
Smartphones began rapidly spreading in Pyongyang and other major cities in 2013, and most phones were imported from China until the first locally manufactured smartphone Arirang was introduced to the public in August 2013. According to CNN reports, Arirang phones were sold for $350 in Pyongyang in 2017.
North Korean smartphones are reported to sport high-tech features including artificial intelligence and biometric identification features such as voice and facial recognition.
The number of smartphone users is projected to have increased exponentially, as they have become “essential” for North Koreans, according to the KCTV report.