One of North Korea's largest mobile operators prepares to pull out of the reclusive state due to the impact of international sanctions. File Photo by EPA/How Hwee Young
SEOUL, South Korea, Dec. 19 (UPI) -- North Korea's only 3G network provider will pull out of the hermit kingdom, cutting off some 3.5 million citizens subscribed to its local Koryolink services.
Egypt's telecom giant Orascom froze operations in the North early last month, due to regime's continuous nuclear and missile provocations, Newsis reported, citing Japanese intelligence sources.
Koryolink is one of the largest mobile operators in the North, established in 2008 as a joint venture between Orascom and the North's telecommunications ministry.
The Egyptian network provider has a stake of 75 percent while the regime owns 25 percent of the holdings.
Radio Free Asia reported last year that Orascom had earned $653 million in the North, over the stretch of seven years but international sanctions blocked the company from accessing its gains.
According to Japanese intelligence, the Cairo-based firm had initially planned to continue its North Korea business within the boundaries of U.N. sanctions on the regime, but decided later to withdraw from the country completely.
The company is said to be discussing the withdrawal process with North Korean authorities.
Meanwhile, Koryolink subscriptions have been transferred to Byol, a state-run operator established in 2015.
Orascom is one of the largest companies in Egypt with businesses ranging from railway and construction to IT and banking, according to Egypt Independent.
The corporate giant's Orabank set up a branch in Pyongyang in 2011 but closed in December last year, due to U.N. Security Council sanctions and the U.S. Treasury's financial restrictions on North Korean businesses and entities.