Google's Bugdroid Spotted In North Korean Children’s Palace

Google's robotic Android mascot — commonly known as the Bugdroid — was spotted in the Mangyongdae Children's Palace in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea. The mascot originally made an appearance in a photo taken by one Wong Maye-E for Associated Press that can be seen above. Though the photograph was taken last Friday, it's unclear when Bugdroid was initially painted in the North Korean pedagogical institute that's been operational for almost three decades now. The Verge notes that the same mascot was spotted in a photograph published last year by the Los Angeles times, adding how the image of the famous robot is seemingly reflective and was likely installed for decorative purposes.

While several previous reports confirmed that Android-powered devices have a presence in North Korea, those smartphones and tablets aren't openly advertising the fact that they're running some iteration of Google's open source operating system. Devices like the recently uncovered Woolim tablet are definitely powered by Android, but they're heavily locked down and lack any kind of Android branding. The first known Android device that launched in North Korea is the Arirang handset that debuted in 2013, shortly after Alphabet's Chairman Eric Schmidt visited the North Korean capital Pyongyang. Schmidt reportedly made the trip to warn top North Korean officials that they're risking an economic collapse if they continue refusing being connected to the Internet on a country-wide level, but no other details regarding his visit have been revealed so far.

Regardless, Android devices started becoming a more common occurrence in North Korea following Schmidt's 2013 trip, as the Pyongyang Informatics Company has been retailing Android-powered Ullim tablets for approximately three years now. As noted by experts on the Far Eastern country, it's unlikely that the author of the Bugdroid featured on one of the walls in the Mangyongdae Children's Palace saw Google's mascot on the Internet seeing how North Koreans only have access to 28 websites, none of which seemingly feature any depiction of the famous robot. In a statement provided to The Verge, graphic designer Irina Blok who created the Bugdroid in 2007 said she doesn't mind its appearance in the capital of North Korea, noting how the mascot was initially envisioned as a collaborative project on which anyone can iterate.

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Dominik Bosnjak

Senior Writer
Dominik started at AndroidHeadlines in 2016. He’s approaching his first full decade in the media industry, with his background being primarily in technology, gaming, and entertainment. These days, his focus is more on the political side of the tech game, as well as data privacy issues, with him looking at both of those through the prism of Android. Contact him at [email protected]