Report: Foreigners Not Allowed to Bring Cell Phones to Sinuiju [Updated]
SinoNK remains vested in our standard brand of in-depth analysis, but we are also endeavouring to be a bit more agile with our posts this spring, as we think about ways to best serve our readers. The following is an example of a kind of newsbrief that we hope to evoke when Chinese-language materials and perspectives on North Korea are not getting their deserved inclusion in the master narrative or reportage from standard sources. — Adam Cathcart, Editor-in-Chief
BELFAST — In this detailed report which includes quotes from a Koryolink official, Associated Press has confirmed that foreigners are now allowed to bring and use their cell phones “in North Korea.” The BBC confirmed as much via an interview with Gareth Johnson of Young Pioneer Tours.
However, SinoNK has learned that the new policy appears to cover only Pyongyang and a mountain resort; cell phones are still banned for Chinese tourists in regions near the North Korean border with China. According to interviews with Chinese tour operators on either end of the Chinese-Korean border, the ban remains in effect not just for the city of Sinuiju, itself the site of growing tourist activity, but also for North Korea’s Special Economic Zone in Rason. The news was released yesterday morning (January 21) on the Yanbian News website [延边新闻网], and then tweeted on the Weibo account of Yanbian Chenbao (Yanbian Morning News/延边晨报) around midnight Beijing time. The Yanbian reports, which included sourcing from border guards at Hunchun, made clear that this was not a matter of Chinese not being able to buy Koryolink SIM cards for use in the country, but a strict ban on bringing in any cell phone whatesoever into North Korea.
[Update: According to SinoNK’s correspondence with Gareth Johnson of Young Pioneer Tours, foreigners are allowed now to bring cell phones into Rason so long as they do not have GPS or satellite capability. This information is according to “the [North Korean] partners” of Young Pioneers and has yet to be confirmed by a second source. NK News has more context on the phones story here and here.]
Notes: For much more in-depth background on this issue, see Chris Green, “Barriers to Entry: Cellular Telephony in the DPRK” and Scott Bruce, “Technological Tryptich,” both on SinoNK.com. The frontspiece image for this article is by Justin Kemp.