Chinese Border Shops Market Cheap Cell Phones to North Koreans
Shops are springing up in Chinese cities bordering
But despite the low cost of the phones, North Koreans are balking at purchasing them, citing extra costs associated with bribing border officials to get them back across the border and a complicated registration process, sources said.
As cell phone use in the North becomes more popular, shops have begun to appear in Chinese border cities targeting North Koreans who frequently travel there for shopping, a source living in Dandong, in
"Stores dealing in cell phones which can be used in
There are various types of cell phones available at the stores, the source said, including "bar" type phones which sell for around U.S.
Similar types of cell phones are sold in
In spite of the low cost and good quality of the cell phones at the stores in Chinese border towns, the source said, North Korean travelers are largely window shopping, and not readily purchasing them.
He said that prospective buyers are concerned about trying to illegally bring the phones back through customs, as well as the complex process of registering them with authorities for use once they return to
A North Korean of Chinese descent told RFA that the cell phone store owners in
"This story started with people who don't know about the real situation inside
The source explained that even when citizens of
Other sources said that while it's hard for ordinary residents of
A second source living in Dandong told RFA that another group of businessmen make their profits collecting broken handsets from
"Many intermediary merchants who collect numerous broken [North Korean] handsets are regular customers for the cell phone repair shops which display signs reading 'Pyongyang Telecom' near the customs office in Dandong," the source said.
Since August last year,
But the state-produced device is made for use on the domestic network Koryolink, which does not allow international calls or access to mobile Internet.
Statements in North Korean state media claiming that the Arirang was manufactured using "homegrown technology" were met with skepticism in the West, where observers said the phone uses a Google Android-based operating system.
Owning a cell phone is still a luxury in
But use is growing fast, with some 2 million North Koreans subscribing to Koryolink since it launched in 2008 as a joint venture with Egyptian company Orascom.
Copyright (c) 1998-2011, RFA. Used with the permission of Radio Free Asia,
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