First Instagram photo from North Korea marks milestone

Featured Korea - February 28th, 2013
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In this time and age, when people openly embraced technological advancements by the minute, North Korea purposely held back. But when it takes a step in that direction, the world watches, because the mere thought of a glimpse is simply irresistible.

Maybe that’s why the Internet went abuzz when Jean H. Lee, head of the Associated Press’ Korea bureau, snapped a photo of a man walking past a billboard and uploaded the image on Instagram, a popular photo application, using the North’s mobile services provider Koryolink.

Koryolink, the joint Egyptian-North Korea mobile phone venture, announced last week that 3G mobile internet would be available but only for foreigners, The Associated Press reported.

It was seen by others as a milestone for the reclusive state where access to open Internet is limited and heavily regulated.

The Instagram photo could be part of a bigger picture – that North Korea may be warming up to the idea of opening up. Just last month, North Korea allowed foreigners to bring their cellphones into the country. Visitors were previously required to relinquish their mobile devices at the airport.

More North Koreans are using laptops as young leader Kim Jong-Un continues to push for science and technology, AP reports.

However, the breakthrough is better seen from the other side. North Korean residents will not be allowed to use the service and access is restricted to the Intranet.

Google’s Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt called for “free and open internet” during his controversial visit to Pyongyang recently.

“It’s a society governed by a web of strict rules and regulations, a nation wary of the outside world,” Lee said in her article.