101230-koryolink-14The North Korean government is now allowing tourists to keep hold of their cell phones when they enter the country and buy SIM cards on the local network, according to a report by China’s Xinhua news agency.

The report comes hours after Young Pioneer Tours said tourists on their most recent trip were able to take in cell phones.

Quoting an unnamed Egyptian technician with Koryolink, the Egyptian-Korean joint venture that operates North Korea’s sole 3G network, Xinhua reported that the policy changed on January 7 this year.

The technician said visitors should have to register their cell phone when they enter the country by providing the IMEI number, a 13-digit unique number programmed into each cell phone.

Visitors can purchase a Koryolink SIM card for 50 euro (US$67) to make international calls, he told Xinhua. The amount of calling possible for this payment was not detailed.

North Korea’s cell phone network operates with at least two tiers of service, with a barrier existing between local North Korean users and foreigners in the city.

“We have tried hard to negotiate with the Korean security side, and got the approval recently,” said the Egyptian, noting that “it has nothing to do with the Google trip.” — Xinhua news, January 20, 2013.

The technician also revealed the mobile Internet access would soon be offered to foreigners. The technical preparations for such a service have been laid and it awaits government approval, Xinhua reported.