North Korea: first Instagram images emerge as social media finally reaches country
The first pictures to be posted to Instagram from North Korea have emerged, in new evidence that the social media revolution has finally reached the hermit kingdom.
Taken by Jean H Lee, the bureau chief for the Associated Press in Pyongyang, the images show everyday street scenes - commuters on their way to work, propaganda posters and dusk settling over the skyline of the city.
North Korea has only just permitted 3G access for foreigners who bring mobile phones into the reclusive state. Previously, phones had to be handed in at the border for the duration of a visitor's stay.
Koryolink, the only 3G mobile operator in North Korea, is jointly run by State-owned Korea Post and Telecommunications Corp. and the Egyptian company Orascom Telecom Holding.
Some of the other images show banners in public parks proclaiming the achievements of the scientists and technicians behind North Korea's recent underground nuclear test and posters in the lobby of The Koryo Hotel showing an Unha rocket, which was used to put a satellite into orbit in December.
The rest of the world believe the launch was a disguised test-firing of a long-range ballistic missile.
More images show a full moon over the dimly illuminated city, the Tower of Juche monument in the centre of the city and - incongruously for a nation that eschews religion and teaches its people to praise the state and the latest member of the Kim dynasty to rule the nation - a slightly weary-looking Christmas tree in the Potonggang Hotel.
The opening up of the 3G market now also permits people to send tweets from North Korea, and to Skype the outside world via a mobile phone.
In one of the first tweets to leave the country, Lee wrote, "Thank you #Koryolink - looking forward to tweeting from the road in #NKorea".
North Korea's newly-discovered interest in social media may very well be driven by Kim Jong-un. The new leader, who took over after his father died in December 2011, was educated abroad and will have been aware of the technological backwardness of his homeland.
Kim was pictured in a meeting with senior advisors last month with a smartphone at his elbow and in January permitted Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, to visit Pyongyang.
With his daughter, Sophie, and Bill Richardson, the former governor of New Mexico, the group was given a tour of the North's technological abilities. Just over one month later, the government announced that it would permit foreign travellers to use wireless Internet on their mobile devices while inside North Korea.
Julian Ryall Telegraph.co.uk