In a case of extremely unfortunate timing, Huawei’s slow recovery from the bad news of being banned from buying from US companies seems to have suffered a bit of a blow today.
The Washington Post has reported that Huawei has – indirectly, mind you – been involved in the building of North Korea’s national wireless network called Koryolink.
In particular, a former Huawei employee has allegedly given the WaPo documents showing that Huawei provided equipment via an intermediary company – Panda International Information Technology – to a North Korean joint venture which built the Koryolink network.
It seems to be a bit of a low bow, but the documents do paint some kind of link between Huawei and the secretive North Korean regime. The WaPo reports that the US Commerce Department opened a probe into these events back in 2016, and since then, it has either declined or failed to conclude there was a link here.
For its part, Huawei denied any involvement in current business in North Korea, but stopped short of denying its past involvement as alleged by the Post. While declining to authenticate the source documents, Huawei did not deny that they appeared to be Huawei-sourced materials.
It’s a bit of a complex story, so we don’t propose to explore it in depth here, but if Huawei has been involved in supplying technology to North Korea (albeit old, 3G network technology that probably doesn’t matter anymore) then there’s some questions that probably need answering.
Those questions would be a lot more intense, and justifiably so, if it were 5G network technology, or something a little more cutting edge.
However, from what we understand, Koryolink offers a very severely limited service to North Koreans and visiting foreigners – international calling isn’t generally permitted, there’s no Internet access, and coverage is limited to a few key cities and highway routes.
It’s an interesting story .. but really, I think in terms of Huawei news, people are more interested in finding out whether the company’s long association with Android will continue post August 19 when the current exemptions to the US DOC Entity List expire.