North Korea announces it has produced its first home-grown smartphone – Arirang – but experts have disputed its origins.
The Arirang handset, described as a “hand phone” in state media, was shown to leader Kim Jong-un during a factory tour.
North Korea has had a mobile network since 2008, but activity is heavily monitored and restricted.
Last year North Korea launched a tablet, but it later emerged it was likely to have been made in China.
Clues to the tablet’s origin were uncovered by Martyn Williams, an expert on North Korean technology, who noted that parts of the tablet’s software code suggested links to a manufacturer in Hong Kong.
The Arirang smartphone, named after a popular folk song, was unlikely to have been made in the country, Martyn Williams added.
He noted that actual manufacturing was shown, and that the device was “probably made to order by a Chinese manufacturer and shipped to the May 11 Factory where they are inspected before going on sale”.
Kim Jong-un was accompanied by the Korean Workers’ Party propaganda chief and the head of the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), a hint that the devices could be used for widespread dissemination of government information.
The North Korean leader was seen to be demoing the device, which appeared to be running a version of Google’s Android mobile operating system.
There are no further details available about the smartphone’s exact specifications, but the KNCA reported that Kim Jong-un praised the “high pixels” of the built-in camera.
The article said Kim Jong-un had high hopes for the “educational significance in making people love Korean things”.
He advised that factory workers should “select and produce shapes and colors that users like”.
Mobile phones in North Korea have been available since 2008. The national network is maintained thanks to a joint operation by the North Korean government and Egyptian telecoms company Orascom.
Phones on the network are heavily restricted. They cannot access the internet and can only make calls within North Korea.
For a short time, foreigners in the country were able to use mobile internet, but this access was later revoked.
It is believed that many in North Korea, particular those near the borders, use illegally owned mobiles to contact people outside the country.
Being found in possession of a foreign phone would be a very serious crime.