NORTH KOREA: Trying to Save Face With a Stolen Tablet?

The release of North Korea’s new “Arirang” tablet computer is very exciting news, but as with many new gadgets, there is at least one big question. Instead of asking how it compares to competitors or how well it performs, the question is about where it was made.

North Korea’s media said a government agency, the Pyongyang Information Technology Bureau, made the tablet, but not everyone believes the official story. Many people outside of North Korea have noticed that “Arirang” looks suspiciously like a Chinese tablet computer. This raises the question of whether it was actually made in North Korea or not. And if it was not made in North Korea, why is the North Korean media saying it is a North Korean product?

Given the nature of North Korea’s government, and the fact that its media is state-run, it could be that they are trying to keep their citizens in the dark about technological shortcomings. If the people of North Korea learned that their government might not have made “Arirang,” and just borrowed and adapted another country’s product, they may question what their government is capable of.

This is every autocrat’s worst nightmare, as dictatorships tend to rely on keeping their citizens in a state of wonder and awe at the government’s capabilities. But when a supposedly all-powerful government may not even be able to make a tablet computer on its own, the citizens may lose faith in their government’s omnipotence. It is likely that the North Korean media will continue to claim that “Arirang” is a North Korean product, but it will be interesting to see if China has anything to say about this.

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