VOA Reports on Cell Phone Use in North Korea

Photo with girl using cell phone, text: Has North Korea entered the telecommunications revolution?Washington, D.C., March 4th, 2014 – VOA Korean Service reporter Yonho Kim will participate in a joint VOA-U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins SAIS panel discussion, “Telecommunications and Technology in North Korea,” on Thursday, March 6. Kim will discuss cell phone use in North Korea.
Mr. Kim travelled to Seoul, South Korea in 2013 to interview North Korean defectors and diaspora to compile data for his report, “Cell Phones in North Korea: Has North Korea Entered the Telecommunications Revolutions?”.

Many of those Mr. Kim interviewed were suspicious of reporters.  “I had to draw on all my skill as an interviewer to gain their trust,” Kim said.  “Many of the defectors I interviewed had recently fled from North Korea and were afraid to talk to reporters.”

“This is a rare occasion that a journalist has examined cell phone use in North Korea in a comprehensive manner,” said VOA Korean Service Chief Dong Hyuk Lee.  “The North Korean government keeps a tight grip on the media, so we wanted to find out how the recent introduction of cell phones is affecting the country’s society.”

When Mr. Kim conducted research for his report in 2013, there were two million cell phone users in North Korea-just five years after the North Korean government allowed widespread cell phone use in 2008.

North Koreans use their cell phones much less than people in the West.  The North Korean government monitors voice and text communications.

VOA reporter Yonho Kim will join Alexandre Mansourov of the U.S.-Korea Institute at SAIS, and Sascha Meinrath of the New American Foundation’s Open Technology Institute for the panel discussion and Q&A session.

The panel discussion, “Telecommunications and Technology in North Korea,” will be held at the Bernstein-Offit Building, Room 500, 1717 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. from 9:00 to 10:30 a.m.

Please RSVP at http://uskoreainstitute.org/events/dprktech030614/ to attend this event.

Update: The report and a video of the panel discussion are available here.

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