North Korea unveils its iPad killer
The vast mass of the North Korean people stand about as much chance of accessing the regular Internet as I do of being elected the next Pope but that hasn't stopped the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the official - and only - mouthpiece of the regime from waxing lyrical about the country's (allegedly) home-grown alternative to the iPad.
Destined as it is for the use of the favoured few of the political and military elite of North Korea the device nevertheless cannot access the web as we know it, although the Supreme Leader and his immediate coterie are known to enjoy surfing the western web and taking a gawk at exciting stuff forbidden to the rest of the population.
The Samjiyon costs the equivalent of £155, which is an astronomic and utterly unattainable sum for the average North Korean. The device connects to the country's mightily circumscribed and massively policed intranet and lucky users get 'news' - as it is laughingly called - together with a pre-loaded 'educational apps' from the "Great People's Study House." Also supplied are 141 ebooks on North Korea and 14 games including "Fishing Joy", 'Basketball Shot" , Korean chess, billiards and an ersatz version of Angry Birds.
There is also a Korean/Chinese dictionary, and a truncated encyclopedia which dwells heavily on “the immortal achievements of leaders Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il and the "revolutionary cause of Juche under the unfurled banner of Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism".
(By the way, the official flower of North Korea is the Kimiljongia, or is that the Kiimsungia? I think we should be told so that we can lay this matter to rest for once and for all. It is stopping me sleeping at night).
What's more, avid North Korean readers can access 28 books by foreign authors, some of which contain obvious political messages (Les Miserables, Dombey and Son, for example) whilst others (including Vanity Fair, Gone with the Wind and Sir Walter Scott's turgid novel "Ivanhoe" seem to be included at the whim of some senior Party apparatchik). I wonder what on earth North Korean readers will make of Victor Hugo's interminable, chapter-long listings of the street names of early 19th century Paris?
According to the KCNA the Samjiyon has afast 1.2GHz processor (if that's the case it is well in advance of some of the downmarket tablet computers presently available in Western Europe and North America) which runs the Red Star operating system, software that seems to bear a suspicious resemblance to a bastardised version of Android - but I'msure there's a simple explanation for the apparent similarities.
Whist North Korea has a massive military/industrial complex that takes the lion's share of the country's GDP, it is not known for its expertise in making tablet devices. Experts opine that the device may run some home-grown North Korean software but speculate that the hardware is manufactured in the People's Republic of China before the devices are boxed (and printed with Korean characters) before being shipped over the border.
And next, the collected works of Spike Milligan. That'll throw 'em.
All together now...."in the Ning Nand Nong where the cows go 'Bong' andf the monkeys all say 'Boo'..."