North Korea’s Koryolink: Built for Surveillance and Control

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Eavesdropping and network security were the top concerns of the North Korean government in the months before Koryolink, the country’s current mobile network service, was launched in December 2008, according to minutes of a May 28, 2008 meeting in Kuala Lumpur between engineers from the Korea Posts and Telecommunications Co. (KPTC) and Orascom Telecom which have been seen by 38 North. Despite being a technical-level meeting, the building of sufficient network surveillance capabilities was of such great importance to the regime that even Ri Su Yong (also known as Ri Chol or Ri Tcheul)[1], then the DPRK’s representative to the United Nations in Geneva, was in attendance. At that time, it was clear that if the regime was going to attempt reintroducing telecommunications technology to the North Korean people, tight controls were needed to ensure it would not be used in subversive ways. Working together with Chinese technology companies, KPTC and Orascom created one of the most restrictive cellular environments in the world.

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