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North Korea cuts mobile Internet access for foreign visitors

A notice on a travel Web site says tourists can still purchases SIM cards for international calls, but mobile Internet access has been terminated.

Less than a month after allowing foreign visitors to access 3G wireless networks, North Korea has reportedly severed tourists' connection to the mobile Internet.

The reclusive country announced last month that it would soon relax restrictions on visitors' access to the Internet via mobile devices within its borders, rules that long required visitors to leave their handsets at the border or airport when entering to the country. Residents were expected to have access to certain voice and text services on the 3G network, but not the mobile Internet.

Koryolink, a 3G mobile provider partially owned by the North Korean government, began offering the service on March 1, allowing foreigners to bring their own WCDMA-compatible phones into the country or rent a mobile and buy a local SIM card at the airport.

However, North Korea Tech reports that a notice posted to the Koryo Tours Web site indicates that program has been terminated. The notice, as posted by the company, which specializes in arranging tours to North Korea:

NOTE: 3G access is no longer available for tourists to the DPRK. Sim cards can still be purchased to make international calls but no internet access is available.

The site did not indicate why visitors' access to the mobile Internet was terminated, but the move comes at a time of heightened tensions between North Korea and South Korea and the U.S. A recent massive cyberattack on servers in South Korea initially traced to IP addresses in China may have been misdiagnosed. However, North Korea has been accused several times of launching cyberattacks against South Korean newspapers, banks, and government sites.