Will Scott, the American that spent a semester teaching computer science at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, spoke about his experiences this week at the Chaos Computer Club’s annual conference in Hamburg.
Scott, who has just returned from the second trip to PUST, went into detail on the IT environment at the university, availability of the Internet, access to computers and cell phones, and his observations on Red Star Desktop 3.0, the latest version of North Korea’s home-grown Linux operating system.
When he wasn’t taking stunning panorama photographs around Pyongyang, Singapore-based photographer Aram Pan had time to visit this year’s Pyongyang Spring International Trade Fair (평양봄철국제상품전람회).
The fair was twice as big this year as it had been in 2013 according to state media, and it’s easy to see why when you watch a 3-minute video shot by Pan.
The place is bustling with people browsing and buying all manner of products.
As Pan notes in the opening of the video, all transactions that take place at the event are settled in Chinese Yuan, Euros or U.S. Dollars. In fact, a booth worker can be seen handling U.S. currency in one scene in the video. This isn’t perhaps surprising when many retailers and products have come from overseas.
Almost 70 companies publicly traded on U.S. stock markets have found North Korean gold in their manufacturing supply chains.
Among the more prominent names are electronics companies IBM, HP, Garmin, Philips and Seagate, U.S. kitchenware retailer Willams Sonoma.
The discoveries were disclosed in reports to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that are the result of a new law that mandates companies audit their suppliers and identify sources of so-called conflict minerals: gold, tin, tungsten and tantalum.
The companies all named North Korea’s central bank as the source of some gold that made its way into their products.
Will Scott, a computer scientist from Washington state, just returned from several months as a guest lecturer at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST).
In an interview with North Korea Tech and in posts on Reddit, Scott spoke about what it’s like to be at PUST.
This is part two of a three-part series. Part one published yesterday covered life at PUST and part three looks at North Korea’s Red Star Linux.
Almost ten years in planning, PUST is the country’s first privately-run university and backed with funds from evangelical Christian organizations in the U.S. and overseas.
It currently has several hundred students and guest lecturers make semester-long commitments to PUST and travel from overseas to teach students.
One such lecturer, Will Scott from Washington state, has just returned from the university. More >
Enthusiasm appears to be waning for North Korea’s Samjiyon Android tablet.
Two of the tablets have appeared again on Ebay and were offered by the same vendor who sold one two weeks ago.
This time, it attracted fewer bids and sold for far less than the $546 winning bid of the first Samjiyon to appear on Ebay.
That was sold on November 17 by “firstname.lastname@example.org,” who was identified in an Ebay profile as a Canadian user. The tablet was being shipped from Yanji, China, which is close to the North Korean border.
The Ebay profile page for that email address user now redirects to user name “dansumeh.” The second of the Samjiyon tablets was also listed in Yanji, but the third had the city name removed and is identified as just Jilin province.
As noted previously, the model on Ebay appears to be a slightly lower spec version that the original Samjiyon reviewed by North Korea Tech and 38 North.
Here are the three auctions:
A North Korean Samjiyon (삼지연) tablet computer sold for the impressive price of $546 on Ebay.
The tablet first appeared on the site on November 7 with an opening bid of $4.15 — a likely reference to the April 15 birthday of Kim Il Sung — and attracted 53 bids over 10 days.
The Samjiyon, which appears to be available in several versions, has been reportedly sold to tourists for between $200 and $250, so the Ebay price represents somewhere between a doubling and tripling of the selling price.
The buyer isn’t identified but the seller is listed on Ebay by his or her email address.
“Based in Canada, email@example.com has been an eBay member since Jan 25, 2002,” the site says. The listing for the Samjiyon says it will be shipped from Yanji, China, which is just over the border from North Korea.
Details on the Samjiyon first appeared in state media reports in September 2012, but it wasn’t until earlier this year that foreign experts managed to get their hands on the device.
The winning bidder on the Ebay auction will likely find the Samjiyon a responsive, Android-based tablet useful for playing a few games. North Korean school textbooks and dictionaries are also likely stored in the memory, but it probably won’t offer Internet access. That feature appears to have been disabled by the tablet’s makers, the Korea Computer Center, before it went on sale.
One of the surprises in North Korea’s recently-launched Samjiyon (삼지연) tablet was the inclusion of Angry Birds, the globally-popular game that involves shooting animated birds to destroy structures and animated pigs.
In July, when I was reviewing the Samjiyon, I contacted game-maker Rovio to ask about its inclusion in the device. Despite several attempts to get comment, the company never replied.
Last week, The Washington Post managed to have a bit more luck.
A spokesman for the developer said via e-mail: “Angry Birds Rio has not been localized into Korean, and Rovio Entertainment has no affiliation with the version of the game being shown on the Samjiyon tablet.” — Washington Post, November 6, 2013.
So, it seems that the version on the Samjiyon, which is in Korean, is an unofficial version of the game.
If so, it was likely reprogrammed by the Korea Computer Center, the Pyongyang-based computer software development center and the organization that produces the Samjiyon.
The tablet is largely a software effort. The hardware comes from vendors in China and the Korea Computer Center localizes the Android operating system and develops local applications.