North Korea signs mobile phone deal

The World
The World
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea is one of the most authoritative regimes on the plant, but some observers say the fact that cell phones may be coming soon is the latest sign that things are beginning to change. This expert on Northeast Asian politics at UC Berkeley says this is another indication that North Korea is slowly, reluctantly, becoming a bit more open, more market sensitive and is opening up to the rest of the world. This isn't Orascom's first foray into North Korea. Last year a sister company acquired a 50% stake in a cement plant outside Pyongyang. Orascom said this is the first mobile phone contract in North Korea, but that's not quite accurate. Many recall Kim Jong Il's ill-fated flirtation with a cell phone contract in the mid-1990s. This analyst says a company had a license in the 1990s, started to establish a network and build towers but a few years back after a big explosion that some people was an assassination attempt on Kim Jong Il that the North Koreans believe was started with a cell phone, the North Koreans pulled the network down. But North Koreans won't give their citizens unlimited access, says the Berkeley analyst. Additionally, some observers remain skeptical that Orascom will succeed in Korea. But Orascom has been aggressive in pursuing markets in the developing world. It's built phone networks in North Africa, Zimbabwe, Iraq, Pakistan and Bangladesh. No one believes the acquisition in North Korea makes sense for Orascom. Pyongyang is issuing the company a 25 year license which will gave Orascom exclusive rights to North Korea for four years and this head start may help.
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