Egyptian firm pulls the plug on its North Korean cell phone service

by WorldTribune Staff, December 19, 2017

Egypt’s Orascom has halted service to its 3G mobile phone network in North Korea.

Newsis reported on Dec. 19 that Orascom, amid mounting pressure from the U.S. and UN, has decided to pull its network out of the North completely.

Orascom launched the 3G network in North Korea in 2008.

Related: Reports: Egypt has severed ties with North Korea, September 13, 2017

North Korea introduced a 3G mobile phone network in a joint venture, named Koryolink, with Orascom in 2008. The number of customers has reportedly reached 3.5 million. The Egyptian company holds a 75 percent stake, while the North has a 25 percent stake.

The Trump administration and UN Security Council have increasingly pressed firms to stop doing business in North Korea to prevent vital hard currency from flowing to Pyongyang, which the Kim Jong-Un regime uses to fund its nuclear and missile programs.

According to a May 2014 report by, the North unveiled a domestically-produced smart phone, named “Arirang,” which is believed to be manufactured in China. But its video camera and memory card functions were disabled, according to U.S.-based broadcaster Radio Free Asia.

The Kim Jong-Un regime also prohibited subscribers from using mobile phones for chatting with somebody outside the city in which they are registered.

Article 60 of North Korea’s criminal code “has recently been rewritten such that any citizens who talk by phone with South Koreans could be sentenced for life in concentration camps,” the Geostrategy-Direct report said. “The stern punishment against mobile phone users shows that the Kim Jong-Un regime increasingly fears the spreading of outside information.”

Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris, who signed off on the Oroscom deal, said during an interview with CNBC in September that his investments in the North were about $250 million, but claimed he stays out of politics there.

“I believe I’ve extended a good service to the innocent people of North Korea who are deprived from seeing their parents who live miles away or can’t call their children when they come back from school,” he was quoted as saying. “They’re allowed to have the simplest services that everybody in the West has. It has nothing to do with politics.”

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