Ruediger Frank, a professor at Vienna University, took a trip to North Korea and decided to bring back a bit of merciless oppression with him: Kim Jong Un’s very own tablet PC, known as a “Samjiyon.” Here’s 5 Fast Facts about this fascinating DPRK tablet.
1. The Tablet Has One Feature Western Tablets Don’t: Built-In Television
Rudieger wrote in his 38north.org post:
The tablet has an extendable antenna for receiving analog TV signals. It is able to scan for channels; I tried it in China and in Europe, and it is able to tune into stations there as well.
Ruediger says this is quite a surprise in policy-making for North Korea since one would expect that the device would only tune to DPRK channels. He doesn’t comment, however, on the fact that this may simply be an oversight, likely caused by Kim Jong-Un eating while double checking the tablet for access to outside information.
2. North Korea Customized It, The Country Didn’t Make It
North Korea is thoroughly incapable of manufacturing this kind of thing from scratch.
Some internet sleuths dug into the coding of the device and discovered that it was, in fact, made in China by a company called Yecon.
The company behind the tablet, Yecon, is based in Shenzhen, near Hong Kong, China. Their website is loaded with wonderfully bad English, including their slogan “Wonderful Life, Want Full Creative.”
Not surprisingly, the customizations include things like North Korean books, media, and games. Below is a list of likely propaganda included on the tablet, and a few surprises, including lessons in Chinese and Japanese:
And that’s just for the school children. It also contains 100+ volumes on the lives of various of North Korean leaders.
3. The Tablet is Surprisingly Small and Runs a Phone Version of Android
The video above shows how teeny the NK tablet is. It makes sense as Ruedinger says of the device’s operating system:
The operating system is a customized version of Android 4.0.4. “Ice Cream Sandwich”; judging from the menu options, it seems to have been made for phones rather than tablets. When connecting the Samjiyon to my computer, it is identified as an
“MT65xx Android Phone.”
4. The Tablet Has Decent Specs, But Lacks Wi-Fi or 3G
Ruediger says of the tablets specs:
My SA-70 has a 1 GHz CPU, 1 GB RAM, 4 GB internal memory and a card slot equipped with an 8 GB micro SD memory card. The 7-inch screen has a resolution of 800×480 pixels
Surprisingly, the tablet is comparable to the original iPad Mini. It has twice as much ram, and with an micro SD card slot, and has a feature the iPad mini doesn’t, the micro SD slot. The processor is 1 Ghz, like the Mini’s, but it is likely only a single core based on how the performance is described by a gamer who wanted to try the tablet:
“In terms of responsiveness and speed, it can almost compete against the leading tablets. Tapping and launching apps feels fairly fluid, initializing the camera is as fast as the world’s leading tablets, and there is no noticeable lag when playing games I’m familiar with, like ‘Angry Birds.”
The only two serious weaknesses of the tablet are its lack of Wi-Fi and its tiny resolution. It has about half as many pixels as an iPhone 5 (which is the same as a 5c or 5s).
5. It’s Not Exactly an iPad Killer, But Its Value as a Research Tool is Huge
Huering writes in his piece:
It does not take much imagination to see all the future Ph.D. theses written about the North Korean educational system based just one Samjiyon (don’t forget to give credit to the one who provided you with this idea)
Truly, a fascinating device from a fascinatingly terrible country.
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