Travel expert shares what having a mobile phone is like in North Korea

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Ever wondered what it would be like to have a smartphone under a dictatorship? Well, you’re in luck. Here’s what it’s like for people in North Korea:

A travel expert has offered an insight to how technology is used in every day life for people in the country.

In a video posted to her TikTok channel, Yasmeen explained that less than half the people the country actually have a smartphone.

Though they are still able to download apps for their device, it’s not quite as easy as it is for people living in the majority of other countries.

Discussing tech life under Kim Jong-un, Yasmeen said: “In North Korea, the App Store is a physical store and you can’t delete your browsing history. Let’s talk about phones in North Korea, around 40 percent of the country has a smartphone.

“So if you are a North Korean with a smartphone, it’s probably going to be some sort of Android device that was developed in the country.

“To download apps, you’ll have to go to a physical store and a technician will download apps for you whatever you want that are government approved.

Around 40 percent of people in North Korea have smartphones. Credit: Oleg Znamenskiy/Alamy
Around 40 percent of people in North Korea have smartphones. Credit: Oleg Znamenskiy/Alamy

“The most popular app is called My companion and it’s basically like Netflix on X Games mode. You can watch TV. Well, like you can stream shows you can watch sports, you can learn a new language, they have some educational material, and then they have like e-reader function so you can read a book, you won’t have access to the global Internet and you won’t be able to delete your browsing history.”

Adding: “Samsung phones are the most popular phones you can get on the black market but a lot of elite members have Samsung and Apple products.”

In another video, Yasmeen expands on the topic of apps and how people in the country actually go about downloading them onto their phones.

While people in the US and other countries in the West just search for the app they’re looking for, like YouTube or whatever, in North Korea they have to go to an actual shop where ‘technicians’ download the apps for them, as long as they’re government approved.

Despite what appears to be an odd process for us, Yasmeen says there are still loads of apps to choose from.

“They have all sorts of apps just like we do health apps, cooking apps, karaoke is really popular and one of their most popular apps is called my companion,” she explains.

Samsung phones are the most popular in the country. Credit: Sipa US/Alamy
Samsung phones are the most popular in the country. Credit: Sipa US/Alamy

“You can look at my last tech talk if you want to know more about that, but it also has a language learning platform. The most popular language to learn is Chinese and English is also popular as well.

“There’s also an app called unit VOCA and this app was made for North Korean defectors if they defect to South Korea and it helps them learn South Korean slang.

“A lot of times, North Korean defectors have a really hard time understanding people in South Korea because they are so far cut off from them.

“One of the most popular apps last year was called my travelling companion and it’s almost like Google Maps.”

Adding: “Samsung phones are the most popular phones you can get on the black market but a lot of elite members have Samsung and Apple products.”


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