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CDMA Project in North At Risk

Posted September. 04, 2002 22:21,   


It seems unlikely for domestic CDMA telecommunication companies to advance into North Korea.

According to the Sep. 4th release by the companies, the CDMA project, enthusiastically initiated by SK Telecom, KT and Samsung Electronics aiming at the North Korean market, could not go forward due to US-imposed ban on exportation to terrorist countries.

Now North Korea belongs to the “rouge country category.” Thus, Korean corporations should take out a license from US Department of Commerce since the CDMA devices utilize the technology of Qualcomm. It is reported that US government has recently sent a US Embassy official in Seoul to Korean Ministry of Information and Telecommunication (MIT) and explained its negative position on Korean companies’ advance to North.

One MIT official confirmed, “US government has confirmed their opposition against licensing the exportation of the equipment needed for the CDMA project. Thus we are unable to further negotiate with North for the CDMA project.”

Accordingly, unclear is the future of the further talks between North and South for the CDMA project, which was originally put on hold due to the military clash in the Yellow Sea. In addition, also put on hold is the movement by corporations like SK Telecom and KT for building up a consortium. Further, tension is between US and South Korea for the overseas licensing of CDMA since the CDMA project in North has become almost impossible. The MIT and domestic corporations have kept an eye on the project.

In June, North and South for the first time held a meeting of officials in charge of telecommunication in Pyong Yang. Later, they heralded an era of cellular phone communication between two Koreas by agreeing to jointly initiating a CMDA project in Pyong Yanf and Nampo areas.

US Embassy’s Public relations official Kim Chong-im said, “Until now, we have not received any request of a Korean corporation for permitting exportation of CMDA equipment to North. Thus, US government has not decided on this matter yet.” The MIT and domestic companies hope that Qualcomm, which retains the original CDMA technology, would persuade US government.

MIT official Yang Joon-chul hoped, “Exportation of CDMA to North means a lot. It’s a unification of cellular phone technology between two Koreas. For now, it’s impossible to obtain the license for the exportation. Thus, we just wish the relations between North and US would get better.”

Tae-Han Kim freewill@donga.com