Online shopping has arrived in North Korea, though it's as isolated from the rest of the world as the country itself, and the vast majority of North Koreans lack the technology to use it. The website Okryu, aimed at smartphone users, offers North Korean products including women's clothing, bags, shoes, medicines, cosmetics, furniture, and food. Payment, in local currency only, is taken from the main North Korean debit card system. To keep it all hermetically sealed, the site works only on North Korea's own intranet known as the "domestic web"; it's been around for years, but not used very much, largely because very few have personal-use computers that can go online at all.
Smartphone use, however, is growing, and Okryu's presence suggests that the government does not consider the technology a threat. While cellphones are still largely absent from the countryside, it has become common to see people using them in the capital. By 2013, the number of mobile and smartphones mushroomed to about 2 million, or nearly one for every 10 North Koreans. It's impossible to say how popular Okryu (pronounced ong-yu) is or if the average North Korean shopper is even aware of it, and foreigners—inside or outside North Korea—are barred from using it. North Koreans who can access it, however, may find it particularly useful that they can compare prices—a luxury because advertising in the country is nearly non-existent and traveling to do bargain-hunting can be difficult. (Read more North Korea stories.)