North Korea Has Opened Its First Ever Online Retailer

The infamously technophobic “hermit kingdom” North Korea has made a big step forward in embracing the world wide web, introducing the country’s first ever online shopping mall.

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the region’s state-controlled media outlet, reported that online retailer Okryu was launched on Wednesday, April 8th, allowing the North’s citizens to purchase “high quality but cheap” food, medicine, bags, cosmetics and more. These items can be purchased using smartphones or computers, with them being delivered directly to customers’ homes.

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Speaking to The Korea Times, the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses researcher Tak Sung-han said: “The North appears to have launched the online mall to encourage consumer spending. These days, the regime is trying to secure more capital. The online mall is a good example of the ever changing market in the North.”

He continued: “The North is trying to leap forward in the IT industry. But it still has a long way to go because it rarely seeks help from other countries.”

The Okryu online shopping mall in action. (Image: Yonhap)

Analysts believe that the launch of Okryu is emblematic of the country’s attempts to build its economy, with it looking to take advantage of the estimated 2.4 million mobile network subscribers n the region. The country is notoriously strict when it comes to its citizens’ internet access, so launching its own online retailer that the state can monitor is the closest thing its citizens will likely ever get to a service rivaling Amazon.

In his New Year’s address, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un said that the country would continue its efforts in developing its IT industry. However, this will prove to be difficult given that there are only just over 1,000 IP addresses in the country, with most internet users being limited to using a domestic ‘net service called Kwangmyong, with global internet usage limited to only a very select number of individuals.

Photo: Getty Images