ITEM: North Korean 3G cellco Koryolink is reportedly shutting down after its main stakeholder, Orascom, decided to bail from the country due to international sanctions and the regime’s increasingly heated exchanges with the US over its nuclear missile program.
According to UPI – citing Newsis, which in turn cites Japanese intelligence sources – Egypt-based Orascom froze operations of Koryolink early last month, and has transferred all 3.5 million of its subscribers to rival state-run ISP Byol, which launched its mobile operations in 2015.
Koryolink launched 3G services in 2008 as a JV between Orascom and the government, with Orascom unit Orascom Telecom Media and Technology Holding (OTMT) owning 75% of the business.
According to UPI, Orascom is ostensibly pulling out of North Korea because of its provocative nuclear missile tests. However, according to an earlier report from Radio Free Asia, while Orascom reportedly earned $653 million from Koryolink between 2008 and 2015, it can’t access any of the money because of the international sanctions against the regime.
Orascom is reportedly negotiating its exit with the North Korean government.
According to TeleGeography, Orascom’s exit comes as no surprise, and has been in the works for some time:
TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database noted back in November 2015 that the Cairo-based firm had adopted a revised accounting treatment for Koryolink, confirming at that date that it was de-consolidating the North Korean vehicle, making it an associate, rather than a subsidiary.