Communications in North Korea

Communications in North Korea

Based on the limited information available in the early 1990s about the country's telecommunications network, telephone services – an estimated 30,000 telephones in 1985 – mainly were available at government offices, factories, cooperatives, and other workplaces.

North Korea has two AM radio broadcasting networks, Pyongyang Broadcasting Station (Radio Pyongyang) and Korean Central Broadcasting Station, and one FM network, Pyongyang FM Broadcasting Station. All three networks have stations in major cities that offer local programming. There also is a powerful shortwave transmitter for overseas broadcasts in several languages. In the early 1990s, North Korea had an estimated 3.75 million radio sets; most receivers, however, are required by law to be modified to receive only designated frequencies, preventing reception of foreign broadcasts.


By 1970 automatic switching facilities were in use in Pyongyang, Sinŭiju, Hamhŭng, and Hyesan. A few public telephone booths were beginning to appear in Pyongyang around 1990. Ordinary citizens do not have private telephone lines. There are international connections via Moscow and Beijing, and in late 1989 international direct dialing service was introduced from Hong Kong. A satellite ground station near Pyongyang provides direct international communications using the International Telecommunications Satellite Corporation (Intelsat) Indian Ocean satellite. A satellite communications center was installed in Pyongyang in 1986 with French technical support. An agreement to share in Japan's telecommunications satellites was reached in 1990. North Korea joined the Universal Postal Union in 1974 but has direct postal arrangements with only a select group of countries.

Main lines in use: 1.1 million (2001)

Mobile phones

In November 2002, mobile phones were introduced to North Korea and by November 2003, 20,000 North Koreans had bought mobile phones. On May 24, 2004 mobile phones were banned. North Korea supposedly still has a mobile network in Pyongyang which is open for government officials. Foreigners are not allowed to use (and also until recently to keep) mobile phones in North Korea although certain high profile visitors such as leadership from the NY Philharmonic which just visited North Korea in February 2008, have been given rental phones to facilitate direct international communications. These connections are likely closely monitored.


Broadcasting in North Korea is tightly controlled by the state and is used as a propaganda arm of the ruling Korean Workers' Party. The Korean Central Television station is located in Pyongyang, and there also are stations in major cities, including Chŏngjin, Kaesŏng, Hamhŭng, Haeju, and Sinŭiju. There are three channels in Pyongyang but only one channel in other cities. Imported Japanese-made color televisions have a North Korean brand name superimposed, but nineteen-inch black-and-white sets have been produced locally since 1980. One estimate places the total number of television sets in use in the early 1990s at 250,000 sets.


Visitors are not allowed to bring a radio. As part of the government's information blockade policy, North Korean radios and televisions must be modified to only receive government stations. These modified radios and televisions should be registered at special state department. They are also subject to inspection at random. The removal of the official seal is punishable by law. In order to buy a TV-set or a radio, Korean citizens should get special permission from the officials at places of their residence or employment.

The official government station is the Korean Central Broadcasting Station (KCBS), which broadcasts in Korean. In 1997 there were 3.36 million radio sets.


North Korea's first Internet cafe opened in 2002 as a joint venture with South Korean internet company Hoonnet. It is connected via a line to China. Foreign visitors can link their computers to the Internet through international phone lines available in a few hotels in Pyongyang. In 2005 a new internet cafe opened in Pyongyang, connected not through China, but through the North Korean satellite link. Content is most likely filtered by North Korean government agencies. [cite news|title=North Korea's tentative telecoms|first=Aidan|last=Foster-Carter|date=2002-07-06|accessdate=2007-05-11|publisher=Asia Times|url=] [cite news|publisher=The Chosun Ilbo|title=First Internet Cafe Opens in Pyongyang|date=2002-05-27|accessdate=2007-05-11|url=] In 2003 a joint venture called KCC Europe between business man Jan Holterman in Berlin and the North Korean government brought the commercial Internet to North Korea. The connection is established through a satellite link from North Korea to servers located in Germany. This link ended the need to dial ISPs in China. [cite news|title=North Korea's IT revolution
first=Bertil|last=Lintner|date=2007-04-24|accessdate=2007-05-11|publisher=Asia Times|url=
] [] has reported getting visitors from North Korea on a daily basis. [ [ North Korean internet users visiting on a daily basis,] ]

KCC Europe is attempting to regulate the .kp country code top-level domain (ccTLD); as of 2007 its site ( is the only known to be active in the ".kp" domain. Its IP address resolves not to Asia but to servers at Internet Provider Berlin ( in the German capital.



ee also

* Communications in South Korea
* Media of North Korea
* Radio jamming in Korea
* Economy of North Korea
* List of Korea-related topics
* [ North Korea Uncovered] , (North Korea Google Earth) See most of North Korea's communications facilities, including: The Korea Computer Center, the Pyongyang Television Tower, the KCBS tower, the major communications center in Heaju, as well as satellite communications stations near Pyongyang.

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