North Koreans get taste of online shopping
North Koreans are being given their first chance to shop online, in a country where access to the Internet has been traditionally restricted for the majority of its population.
On the back of an increase in smartphone use, North Korean authorities have moved to increase the online space available to the population.
North Korea has had a domestic web, or intranet, for many years. But very few people have had access to a network connection to use it.
Now the government has launched a new online shopping site called “Okryu” (pronounced “Ong-yu”), which is managed by the General Bureau of Public Service, an official government body whose job it is to oversee shops, restaurants, and producers of consumer products.
North Koreans cannot buy from international websites, and “Okryu” is exclusively for the use of North Korean nationals.
All of the companies represented on the site are North Korean, and a demonstration of the site at the General Bureau of Public Service showed locally-produced food, drinks and clothes on sale.
Payment is taken from the main North Korean debit card system, called the “Narae” card.
Since last year, North Koreans have been able to look at a limited number of local websites on their smartphones via the country’s mobile phone network, Koryolink.
Those sites include the local state newspaper, the Worker’s Daily; the state news agency; a science and technology site called “Hot Wind”; a TV show download site for local TV programs; and a local university site.
North Korean users cannot connect to the international internet via this local data service, so although mobile phone use has now become widespread in North Korea, the online experience is still a strictly domestic one.