You want the 3G? You can’t handle the 3G! North Korea pulls foreigner access [UPDATE: Temporarily]

From AP Korea bureau chief Jean H. Lee's Instagram
From AP Korea bureau chief Jean H. Lee’s Instagram

North Korea’s interactions with the outside world in 2013 have been incredibly varied. In addition to letting Dennis Rodman visit and becoming more technologically open to journalists, the government is still virulently threatening to bomb both South Korea and the United States. And the erratic policy moves keep coming: The DPRK just reversed its policy on 3G for foreigners.

North Korea revoked foreigner access just a month after first changing its policy to allow foreign visitors to use its 3G network, Koryolink. This is especially disappointing because the change had already resulted in some remarkable pictures coming out of the isolated country from AP Korea bureau chief Jean H. Lee, as well as others.

Another reason it’s a disappointing move? This means Dennis “The Worm” Rodman is one of the only people to have ever tweeted from above the DMZ. 

dennis rodman nkWhile 3G access may be gone for now and the future of more Instagrams and tweets in peril, these brief inside looks still remain. That whole nothing-ever-dies-on-the-Internet thing can be a curse, but this time it’s a blessing. Be sure to check out the Instagram accounts of AP’s David Guttenfelder as well as VICE’s Jason Mojica, who both recently spent time in the country. 

North Korea did not provide an explanation for why it pulled 3G access, but none of the potential reasons are promising; either officials didn’t like what was getting transmitted over the network, or the government is purposely making obtuse policy changes.

UPDATE: Uri Tours, one of the most prominent travel agencies arranging trips to North Korea, told Digital Trends “We confirmed with our partners that 3G service is still available for tourists. Rumors were incorrect it seems or only temporary. Our next group is in two weeks and we plan to use the 3G.” So the 3G desert may be short-lived, after all. Still no word on why the policy was reversed so quickly.

Either way, the changes will have little impact on the day-to-day lives of most North Korean citizens, since the 3G connection was offered to foreigners only. While North Koreans are as obsessed with gadgets as their South Korean counterparts, they use a domestic intranet instead of the Internet to communicate – a policy that keeps information more tightly controlled.


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