North Korean tablet ‘Samjiyon’ has Angry Birds, won’t play nice with Western internet


North Korea is a black hole of technology, where Android tablets and smartphones don’t exist and the internet is a rumour. Guess what, only the last part of that sentence is correct. ITWorld reports on the “Samjiyon”, a bog-standard 7-inch Android tablet that can play a Korean version of Angry Birds Rio, but won’t connect to the satanic Western internet. Flip-side: it will connect to the heavily-monitored North Korean internet called “Kwangmyong” which is described as a walled-garden national intranet. So we’re guessing that it won’t come with Facebook preloaded then.

The Samjiyon’s is a US$200 (R2000) device and was picked up by a tourist, who for some reason chose to visit North Korea. It’s got a 1.2Ghz CPU, 1GB RAM, a 7-inch screen with a display of 1024×768, a choice of 8 or 16GB internal memory (model dependent) and a 2-megapixel camera.

According to the tourist who purchased the tablet, it’s fairly responsive and tapping the icons as well as opening apps “feels fluid”. Predictably, there’s no Google services on the device, with YouTube and Google search replaced by North Korean-friendly services. For everyone who watched the video above, you’ll also notice, at the end, that the user pulls out a TV aerial. There’s four pre-loaded stations which connects to stations in Pyongyang and the locked-down software won’t allow users to tune into custom channels.

This lock-down extends to the WiFi which the tourist who purchased the device cannot activate. Apparently there is no way to activate it, outside of it connecting to the NK-only Kwangmyong intranet.

Take this tablet for what it is: a rare curio that shows how far North Korea will go to keep its population outside of Western control. Unless we’re brave enough to enter North Korea (we aren’t), you’ll never see Samjiyon reviewed on our site. Also, all of the apps are in Korean which kind of puts us outside of its intended demographic.

Image via IDG News

Steven Norris: grumpy curmudgeon


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