North Korea gets new phone numbers to honour supreme leader

Regime orders mobile operator to add a two to dialling code 191, to mark year of Kim Il-sung’s birth in 1912. Daily NK reports

The Guardian, UK/November 26, 2015

A major phone provider in North Korea has been ordered by authorities to change its mobile numbers to something a little more nationalistic.

As part of a propaganda campaign to celebrate Kim Il-sung’s birth in 1912, mobile operator Koryolink has added an extra two to the standard inland region code 191, so that all citizens will be commemorating the country’s founding father when they make a call, according to sources in the capital.

This change will also apply to foreign residents, said a source, who wished to remain anonymous. Another Pyongyang resident corroborated the information.

The dialling code of rival phone company Kangsung Net will stay as 195.

Around 2.5 million people have signed up with Koryolink since it launched in 2008, with members of the elite being the main subscribers.

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Although a basic mobile phone can cost up to a fifth of the average annual salary in the DPRK, a burgeoning population of users coupled with a series of newly installed cell towers means that the DPRK’s domestic networks now extend into China.

But access to mobile phones remains a preserve of the elite: Kangsung Net’s service comes with a base rate of 200 minutes and lets subscribers pay their phone bills in local currency –increasingly rare in the DPRK where many prefer to use more stable currencies from abroad.

Koryolink costs 3,000 North Korean won ($0.35) for three months, a third more than Kangsung Net, and must also use a foreign currency card to purchase additional minutes.

A version of this article first appeared on Daily NK, part of the Unification Media Group

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