I’m not sure if this will be a boost to HTC’s sales or not, but it appears that Kim Jong-un, the supreme leader of North Korea, carries a HTC phone. North Korea’s Central News Agency caught a picture of the phone at a national security meeting where Kim Jong-un had the Taiwanese-made handset on the desk.
This isn’t the first time a political leader’s phone has come under public scrutiny. US President Barack Obama has been known to carry a Blackberry and spend hours before sleeping on his iPad. Wen Jiabao, China’s outgoing prime minister, it seems, uses a Nokia slider. World leaders beware, take your choice of gadget seriously.
In North Korea, citizens aren’t allowed to access the internet via mobile phones. In fact, numbers from the South Korean Ministry of Unification indicate that there may be 1.7 million mobile phones in the country by this year. That’s roughly 6 percent of the population. Most of the phones are smuggled in from China and the North Korean government is known to carry sensors that track device usage. Clever citizens often use the phones for a short period, and in crowded areas, so as not to get caught.
Given looser restrictions on foreigners bringing cellphones into the country, a quest for economic growth, and hints of technology opening up under the youngest supreme leader in the land, are we about to see a Korean Spring?
If the picture of the supreme leader sporting an Android-powered HTC phone gets out in Pyongyang, you can be sure that those who can afford it (a particularly small segment of the population) will be grabbing one. But will HTC be opening a store in Pyongyang? Probably not.
UPDATE: HTC has apparently responded to these reports by saying simply: we are thankful for all of our users.