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TypeJoint venture
Area served
Pyongyang, and 14 additional cities and eight highways and railways.
ProductsTelephony, Mobile Network Access
RevenueUS$ 5.8 million[citation needed]
ParentGlobal Telecom Holding S.A.E. (75%)
Korea Post and Telecommunications Corporation (25%)
Websiteintranet Homepage Kwangmyung

Koryolink (Korean: 고려링크, styled as koryolink) is a North Korean wireless telecommunications provider. The company is a cellular operator held by Cheo Technology, a joint venture between Orascom Telecom Media and Technology Holding (OTMT) which holds 75% of the shares, and the state-owned Korea Post and Telecommunications Corporation (KPTC). Koryolink started in 2008 and was the first 3G mobile operator in North Korea.[1]

It offers service in Pyongyang and five additional cities as well as along eight highways and railways. Phone numbers on the network are prefixed with +850 (0)1912. Despite being a 3G network, there is no Internet access (only Intranet access) for domestic users. Although as of April 2014, mobile internet access for foreigners with limited speed or traffic amount was available at a comparably high price.[2]


Orascom Telecom Holding was awarded the license to establish a 3G mobile network in North Korea in January 2008. Koryolink has deployed its 3G network to initially cover Pyongyang, which has a population of more than two million people, with an ambitious plan to expand its coverage to the entire country.

When Koryolink launched, the move was controversial for Egypt-based Orascom as North Korea was under international sanctions since it led nuclear tests in 2006.[3]

At network launch in December 2008, the network had 5,300 subscribers.[4] Orascom reported 47,873 subscribers in June 2009,[5] then 432,000 North Korean subscribers in December 2010,[6] increasing to 809,000 by September 2011,[7] and exceeding one million by February 2012.[8] By April 2013, subscriber numbers neared two million.[9] In 2011, 99.9% of Koryolink customers had 3G access.[10]

In 2015 subscriber numbers exceeded three million and the network was profitable. However, the Government of North Korea refused permission to transfer profits from North Korea to Orascom and even started a second carrier (Kangsong Net) to compete with Koryolink.[11] As result Orascom in its financial result reported, that it lost control over Koryolink's activities.[1][12]

Following tightened sanctions on North Korea by the UN Security Council, Orascom was granted an exemption in September 2018 to continue with the Koryolink operations in North Korea.[13] The United Nations Security Council Resolution 2375 was to be obtained by 9 January 2018 to keep Orascom's DPRK operations legal.[14]

Use by foreigners[edit]

On February 26, 2013, Koryolink made internet service available for foreigners, at the cost of $192 for 2GB;[15] about a month later, on March 29, this was discontinued. A Koryolink official stated that 3G internet service would still be available for certain long-term residents such as diplomatic staff.[16]

Government control[edit]

According to Orascom, the North Korean government monitors all network activities since at least 2009.[17][18] Only calls within North Korea are allowed on Koryolink. However, smuggled phones have been used just over the border in China to International Direct Dialing.[19]

In February 2012, the government denied having banned users from the internet during the mourning period of Kim Jong-il.[20]

In September 2014, Koryolink fixed a loophole that enabled its domestic users to get international calls and internet access designed for tourists only.[21]

In 2016, Orascom admitted to have problems with repatriating profits because of international sanctions against North Korea, and stated that it was looking for a solution to this problem.[22] It was suggested that a merger with state-owned carrier Byol could be on the table, yet "the resulting entity would not be controlled by Orascom, meaning that the Egyptian firm has already effectively ceded control of Koryolink."[22]


  1. ^ a b Williams, Martyn (18 November 2015). "How a telecom investment in North Korea went horribly wrong". Network World. Retrieved 13 March 2016.
  2. ^ "Kim Jong Un's Hauptstadt". Nordkorea-Marathon (in German). 12 April 2014. Archived from the original on 2014-04-14. Retrieved 2014-04-12.
  3. ^ Martyn Williams (17 November 2015). "How a telecom investment in North Korea went horribly wrong". Pcworld.com. Retrieved 2 March 2019.
  4. ^ "Orascom reports DPRK profits". Nkeconwatch.com. 28 June 2009. Retrieved 2017-04-26.
  5. ^ Martyn Williams (26 August 2009). "North Korean 3G customers double in Q2". Northkoreatech.org. Retrieved 2 March 2019.
  6. ^ Orascom Telecom Holding First Quarter 2011 Results Archived 2012-04-12 at the Wayback Machine, page 29, Orascomtelecom.com (accessed 20 May 2011)
  7. ^ Orascom Telecom Holding Third Quarter 2011 Results Archived 2012-04-15 at the Wayback Machine, page 30 Orascomtelecom.com (accessed 28 April 2012)
  8. ^ Alaa Shahine (2 February 2012). "Orascom Telecom Media Shares Jump After North Korea Announcement". Bloomberg. Retrieved 15 October 2012.
  9. ^ "North Korea embraces 3G service". BBC. 26 April 2013. Retrieved 18 May 2013.
  10. ^ Martyn Williams (12 January 2011). "North Korea tops 3G ranking". Northkoreatech.org. Retrieved 2 March 2019.
  11. ^ Ricks, Thomas E.; Kim, Yonho (2016-03-17). "North Korea's silent hard currency source: That cellphone business with Orascom". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 2017-04-27.
  12. ^ Lankov, Andrei (6 February 2017). "The limits of North Korea's meager economic growth". NK News.
  13. ^ "UPDATE 1-Orascom's Koryolink JV granted right to operate in North Korea". Reuters.com. 23 September 2018. Retrieved 2 March 2019.
  14. ^ Chad O'Carroll (21 December 2017). "Koryolink cellphone service will continue operations in North Korea: Orascom". Nknews.org. Retrieved 2 March 2019.
  15. ^ Park Seong Guk (26 February 2013). "Daily NK - Koryolink Mobile Internet Launched". Daily NK. Retrieved 6 April 2013.
  16. ^ Cho Jong Ik (29 March 2013). "Daily NK - Tourist Internet Cut after a Month". Daily NK. Retrieved 6 April 2013.
  17. ^ Martyn Williams (21 February 2011). "Report: Cell phone rentals to visitors suspended". Northkoreatech.org. Retrieved 2 March 2019.
  18. ^ Williams, Martyn (22 July 2019). "North Korea's Koryolink: Built for Surveillance and Control". 38 North. The Henry L. Stimson Center. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
  19. ^ Lee, Dave (2015-05-29). "Bureau 121: How good are Kim Jong-un's elite hackers?". BBC News. Retrieved 2017-04-27.
  20. ^ Martyn Williams (15 February 2012). "North Korea cell phone ban report incorrect, says Orascom". Northkoreatech.org. Retrieved 2 March 2019.
  21. ^ Martyn Williams (2 September 2014). "Koryolink moves to plug censorship loophole". Northkoreatech.org. Retrieved 2 March 2019.
  22. ^ a b Barton, James. "Koryolink no longer under Orascom's control". Developing Telecoms. Retrieved 2020-11-18.

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