North Korea unveils its very own version of the iPad
The reclusive and totalitarian North Korea has developed its own version of the iPad – despite having virtually no internet access throughout the country.
The new tablet, called the Samjiyon, runs a custom version of Android, has 14 games including Angry Birds, and comes pre-loaded with 488 dictionaries, reference works and 141 e-books.
It cannot access “normal” websites, but can access the country’s intranet, offering official news, TV, and educational apps such as “Grand People’s Study House”.
Ruediger Frank, a professor of East Asian economy and society at the University of Vienna and head of its Department of East Asian Studies, has given an analysis of the tablet which he bought one on a recent trip to the closed-off nation.
On the website 38North.org which analyses North Korean issues, he wrote that he was pleasantly surprised by his purchase, despite its inability to use the internet.
The tablet costs around €184.
Jeremy Blum of the South China Morning Post has said: “I would say that the tablet is quite similar to a Western machine aside from the fact that it can't access the internet.”
“The general architecture is the same, and it appears to be running a modified version of Android, so there are obvious similarities there.”
Meanwhile, one of North Korea Tech’s customers said: “I can honestly say that the Samjiyon is surprisingly impressive.”
“In terms of responsiveness and speed, it can almost compete against the leading tablets out there. Tapping and launching apps feels fairly fluid, instantiating the camera is as fast as the world’s leading tablets, and there is no noticeable lag when playing games I’m familiar with, like Angry Birds.”
Among the e-books on the device is the1936 classic, Gone With the Wind, which has cult status in North Korea.
The e-book comes with an introduction that explains that the book is "particularly useful for understanding how modern capitalism spread to all of the United States”.
The introduction says the novel shows how the exploitation of black slaves was the economic foundation of the American colonies and describes the Civil War as "a struggle between the bourgeoisie of the North and the landowners of the South".
The book was translated by the government in the mid-1990s, just before the collapse of Soviet Union support to North Korea resulted in widespread famine.
The motivations behind this remain unclear; it may have been meant as a peace offering or as an insult to the United States.
Although the movie remains forbidden to the general public, it is sometimes used in English-language training material for elite government officials.
And North Korean officials meeting with US envoys have been known to quote from the novel during negotiations.