North Korean elites sure love their Apple devices


North Korea
North Korean citizens paying respect to the statues of Kim Jong-un's ancestors.
Photo: Bjørn Christian Tørrissen/Wikipedia CC

When Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un meet, they could always break the ice by talking about their favorite Apple devices.

While Trump has expressed his admiration for Apple in the past, it turns out that North Korea’s top officials are also quite the fans of the Cupertino tech giant. According to research firm Recorded Future, analysis of the devices being used by North Korea’s elite include numerous iPhones and a MacBook.

Recorded Future analyzed “third-party data, IP geolocation, Shodan port scans, user agents, and open source intelligence” to determine which devices are being used in the country. The reason that this gives a glimpse specifically into North Korea’s elite is because the Kim regime restricts internet access for ordinary citizens, who can only access a carefully controlled selection of approved websites.

North Korea’s tech of choice

Jong-un and his top-ranking officials, however, have access to the internet proper — which they use various devices (mainly smartphones) to access. Devices include the iPhone 4s, iPhoe 5, iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X, and a MacBook.

Non-Apple devices include various Samsung Galaxy handsets, a Windows computer, and servers from IBM and Conexant. A report for Quartz notes that:

“Data from the commerce department reveals that the US has legally exported $483,543 worth of computers and electronics to North Korea since 2002, with just under half of that sum shipping in 2014. While it’s not clear if that money went to purchasing the latest Apple and Samsung devices, the researchers estimate that North Korea could have purchased 350 computers legally from the US in 2014, given average costs at the time.”

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard about Kim Jong-un’s North Korea being closet Apple fans. A 2013 image of Jong-un showed him using an old 21.5-inch iMac, while the country’s homegrown operating system — named RedStar — is basically a big macOS ripoff.

More recently, in 2016, a photo by Reuters’ Korean correspondent and author of North Korea Confidential, James Pearson, showed the dictator looking pretty darn chuffed at is new MacBook Pro.