The first news of a North Korean tablet came in the fall of 2012, when an Android-based tablet debuted at a Pyongyang, North Korea, trade show. Although very few details were available at the time, it was associated with a company called Chosun Computers.
Angry Birds Rio first appeared connected with the North Korean tablet in a review from a North Korean tourist known only as Michael earlier this year. A more recent in-depth review of the SA-70 version of the North Korean tablet by Ruediger Frank at 38North.org, a Web site analyzing North Korea, also showed Angry Birds games were preloaded on the computer. Frank's review also provided a deep dive look at the technical specs of the product and its preloaded software -- including an extensive e-book library featuring "Gone With The Wind."
Frank purchased the device for around $200 during a recent tour of North Korea and was pleasantly surprised by its performance. The tablet featured a 1 GHz CPU, 1 GB RAM, 4 GB of internal memory and a card slot equipped with an 8 GB memory card. The only feature which notably fell short of consumer tablets available elsewhere in the world was the 800x480 pixels resolution of the 7-inch screen. Oh, and the fact that it wasn't capable of connecting to the Internet -- although it did include an analog TV tuner capable of picking up the local propaganda channels and scanning for some channels from outside of the isolated nation.
The version bought by Frank included the Samjiyon brand name and the name of the manufacturer, North Korea Computer Center, stamped on the back of the device. But it seems unlikely that the Samjiyon was manufactured in North Korea, according to an earlier report from IDG News Service. Instead, it's possible the tablet was manufactured by a contract supplier in China and then a special software package that adhered to the strict restrictions of the North Korean regime was loaded.
The existence of the tablet, available only to a wealthy minority of North Koreans, probably isn't a sign that things are getting much better for the millions of North Koreans who struggle with poverty and political repression on a daily basis.