N. Korean leader meets Egypt telecoms chief

AFP, Monday 24 Jan 2011

Kim Jong-Il had a cordial talk with Naguib Sawiris and hosted a dinner for him

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il has met the head of an Egyptian company that provides a mobile phone service in the impoverished communist nation, state media reported Monday.
Naguib Sawiris, chairman and CEO of Orascom Telecom Holding, has been visiting the North since Friday. His company has provided a mobile phone service in the North jointly with a local firm since late 2008.
Kim "warmly welcomed his DPRK (North Korea) visit taking place at a time when Orascom's investment is making successful progress in different fields of the DPRK, including telecommunications," the North's state news agency KCNA said.
Kim had "a cordial talk" with Sawiris and hosted a dinner for him, it added.
Orascom said last year that mobile phone subscriptions in North Korea had more than quadrupled in the space of a year -- to 301,199 by the end of September 2010 from 69,261 a year earlier.
However, it said overall "mobile penetration" remains at one percent in the country, which has an estimated per-capita GDP of 1,700 dollars and a population of 24 million.
North Korea strictly controls access to outside information and fixes the tuning controls of radios and televisions to official stations.
It began a mobile phone service in November 2002 but shut it down without explanation 18 months later and began recalling handsets.
But in December 2008 the country introduced a 3G mobile phone network in a joint venture with the Egyptian firm.
The Egyptian group in 2007 sealed a 115 million dollar deal to invest in a North Korean cement plant. It is also reportedly involved in completing construction of the 105-storey Ryugyong Hotel in the capital.

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