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NORKS switch off 3G data for tourists

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Portly peoples' hero dictator Kim Jong-un has put the brakes on North Korea’s efforts to haul itself into the 21st century after appearing to ban mobile internet services for tourists less than a month after a historic decision was taken to relax 3G data restrictions.

The news came in the form of a brief update posted by Beijing-based NORKS tour company Koryo Tours (via North Korea Tech):

3G access is no longer available for tourists to the DPRK. SIM cards can still be purchased to make international calls but no internet access is available.

In a blog post, the tour company added that “the 3G access for foreigners has now been restricted to long term visitors/residents of Pyongyang only”.

In what at the time seemed a genuine attempt to relax internet restrictions for foreigners coming to the country, the North Korean authorities in February changed their long-standing policy requiring all visitors to leave their mobiles at the border.

Pre-paid SIM cards were made available on the 3G Koryolink network, shortly followed by full data services – albeit at vastly inflated charges starting at 150 euro for 2GB up to as much as 400 for 10GB.

It remains to be seen why the change of heart, although it could well be the Jong-un regime feared that the sudden real-time tweeting and Instagram-ing of the reclusive state over the past few weeks was just too much too soon.

It also comes as North Korea said its missiles were ready to hit US bases on Guam and Hawaii in response to South Korea and US military exercises in the region.

That heightened paranoia may also have a cyber dimension after Norks was implicated in a high profile attack which took out several South Korean banks and TV stations, and most recently an apparently co-ordinated attack on Tuesday targeting anti-North Korean sites run by defectors south of the border. ®

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