Is N.Korea's 'Homegrown' Smartphone a Chinese Knockoff?

The The "Arirang" mobile phone is shown in this undated photo released by the North’s official KCNA news agency in Pyongyang on Sunday. /Reuters-News 1

North Korea's first homegrown smartphone is in fact a Chinese knockoff with a North Korean label, the Hong Kong daily Ta Kung Pao speculated Wednesday.

Photos released by North Korean state media show that the smartphone uses the Android operating system but do not show any production line where the phone might credibly be produced.

Earlier, the official KCNA news agency reported that leader Kim Jong-un visited the "May 11 Plant" where the phone is allegedly being made, and expressed great satisfaction with the product.

He stressed that the phone is made with local technology and expressed confidence that it would become a cause of national pride.

The North set up its own rudimentary mobile network in 2002. In 2008, it built a 3G mobile communication network and released a 3G mobile phone in collaboration with Egyptian telecom Orascom. The number of mobile phone users is now estimated at about 2 million.

Last Tuesday, the BBC also quoted experts as suggesting that the Arirang smartphone is a Chinese product. Steven Millward, an editor of Singaporean IT website Tech In Asia said, "Possibly, the whole smartphone is made in China and only the final boxing is done in the rather sparse plant that Kim Jong-un toured."

englishnews@chosun.com / Aug. 16, 2013 11:20 KST