The mobile web is alive in North Korea as tweets and Instagram photos trickle out

Quartz

North Korea has turned on its mobile internet network for foreigners, and the tweets and Instagram photos have begun seeping out of Pyongyang. Associated Press reporter Jean Lee, who took the above photo of a sign welcoming nuclear test scientists, is among a few journalists already using mobile network.

My first tweet using #Koryolink's new mobile #Internet service. Hello world from comms center in #Pyongyang.—
Jean H. Lee (@newsjean) February 25, 2013

Previously, foreign journalists and other visitors had restricted access to the internet over hardwire and WiFi connections, which is how AP photographer David Guttenfelder has been posting to Instagram for some time. Mobile internet could allow for faster and more candid views from the Hermit Kingdom. Already, Lee has taken to using Instagram for its most common usage in the developed world: posting photos of food—in these cases, corn bread and noodles.

North Korea’s 3G mobile network is a joint venture between state-owned Koryolink and Egypt-based Orascom. It has offered cellular calling for a while but didn’t previously allow data connections. The move to open up the network follows a visit by Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt, who observed last month, “It would be very easy for them to turn the internet on for this 3G network. Estimates are that are about a million and a half phones in [North Korea] with some growth planned in the near future.” For now, however, the internet is only available to the much smaller cohort of phones owned by foreigners.

“The window on North Korea has opened another crack,” observed Guttenfelder, who posted this photo of a Pyongyang karaoke room over the weekend:



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