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[January 21, 2013]
North Korea Restrictions on mobile phone use loosened
(Guardian (UK) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) North Korea is loosening restrictions on foreign mobile phones by allowing visitors to bring their own into the country. For years North Korea required visitors to relinquish foreign handsets at the border until their departure, leaving most tourists without a way to communicate with the outside world.
The ritual of handing them over was part of an exhaustive security check that most visitors faced at immigration. Many visitors - including Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google - chose to leave their phones behind before flying to Pyongyang.
Now foreigners can bring qualifying phones into the country and purchase a sim card for use in North Korea, or rent a handset with a sim card that allows them to call most countries, foreign embassies in Pyongyang and international hotels in the capital, according to Koryolink, the country's only official 3G mobile network provider.
However, foreigners will not be able to communicate with local North Koreans, whose handsets operate on a separate network, and they will not have access to the internet using locally provided sim cards. They can call Japan and the US, but not South Korea. AP (c) 2013 Guardian Newspapers Limited.
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