North Korea is expected to register the 1 millionth cell phone user by the end of the year, barely four years after people were thrown into prison camps, or possibly even executed, for owning one.
Most of the users are in the capital of Pyongyang, home to the impoverished country’s elite and powerful who have the cash to splash out for a device and the calling fees.
The authoritarian government ended a ban on cell phones in 2008, signing a four-year deal with Egyptian company Orascom to build the 3G network in partnership with the government.
A report this month by the Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability said 60 percent of people ages 20 to 50 use cell phones in Pyongyang, a city of around 3 million people who are strictly vetted by the state for residency permits. Calling fees have fallen this year, driving the surge in demand, reports say.
But you cannot dial into or out of the country, and there is no Internet. The government still keeps a stranglehold on all news flows into the destitute state.
Cell phones and the Internet have been used to rally a revolutionary wave of protests and civil wars that have brought down iron rulers from Hosni Mubarak to Muammar Qaddafi. But analysts say this is unlikely to happen in North Korea because strict state media controls limit what people know about the outside world.
1. splash out v. phr.
揮霍 (hui1 huo4)
例: Her boyfriend doesn’t mind her splashing out.
2. stranglehold n.
管制 (guan3 zhi4)
例: In France, supermarkets have less of a stranglehold on food supplies.
3. bring down v. phr.
拉下；使…失敗 (la1 xia4; shi3…shi1 bai4)
例: This scandal may well bring the president down at the next election.