Andrea BergerNot Your Usual Game of Whack-A-Mole

My colleague Olivia Vassalotti is back with another guest post, this time with an update on the recent activities of Glocom, a North Korean intelligence-linked company selling military communications technology overseas. It’s a must-read for anyone interested in North Korea’s contemporary efforts to access the global defence market, or for those curious about the limits of the disruptive effects of sanctions on Pyongyang’s illicit networks.


Glocom, everyone’s favorite North Korean military communications firm, is still busy.  The firm’s operations and its North Korean connections came to light after a consignment of its battlefield radios was interdicted on its way to Eritrea in 2016 and the company’s network became the subject of Reuters and UN investigations. But its tarnished reputation has not led Glocom to close up shop. Quite the contrary. Our investigations actually reveal a seemingly successful effort by Glocom to diversify its approaches to accessing the global defense market.

Social Media

Glocom has unveiled a new version of its website, complete with a set of social media accounts on platforms from Twitter to Youtube and Instagram. The new Twitter account features a steady stream of product advertisements and links to the Glocom site. The first few pictures posted continue to show the email of Pyon Won Gun, the EU-sanctioned director of Glocom, and their old Malaysian web address. In mid-May, promotional material on their Twitter page switched from the Malaysian web address to, which was already being used on their YouTube account.

A very persistent Twitter account claiming to be the “Official Twitter Feed of Russian News in the Middle East” has been actively pursuing Glocom’s services through comments on several of their tweets. In their first comment, the account asks if Glocom is interested in supporting Gaza against the “oppressive Israeli regime.” Unfortunately, it appears their requests have gone unanswered: they commented on several subsequent posts asking Glocom to answer their emails or send them a private message. Apparently, Glocom isn’t that hard up for business.

Glocom’s social media also links to other companies, though it remains unclear what, if any, relationship exists between them. They recently posted a tweet linking to the British company Quark-Elec, which deals in wireless communications for ships. There is nothing on Quark-Elec’s website to clarify why Glocom would have sought to promote their products. Glocom’s Google+ account has (in addition to Glocom products, a bumble bee, and a Lexus) two images of Bittium products and a promotional photo from Rohde & Schwarz, two foreign-owned radio communication firms. Other than being in the same field, there does not appear to be any discernible link between the Bittium or Rohde & Schwarz and Glocom. But why advertise the competition?

Over the course of the last five months Glocom’s new YouTube account has posted six promotional videos. The new C4ISR system video comes close to the Call of Duty-esque graphics used in the old C4ISR video described by Andrea Berger. The new C4ISR video features animated Glocom-branded satellites and more video game style graphics. The user interfaces shown in all of the uploads are entirely in English, as are markings on the products, implying that these products were designed for foreign markets.

Despite reporting and flagging the content of both Glocom’s Youtube and Twitter accounts, neither have been removed.

Third-Party Distributors

On top of the new social media presence, we have noticed another major new development in Glocom’s activities.  For a while we have been wondering why Glocom has not behaved like other North Korean fronts, in that it has continued using the brand despite it being so tarnished by a raft of negative media, sanctions designations, and UN investigations. We would usually expect to see North Korea swiftly cease to use the “Glocom” guise, come up with something new and equally bland to serve as a cover, and then add more links into the chain between seller and customer to further obfuscate any connections to Pyongyang. Were they not doing this because of brand dependency perhaps, or some other explanation?

Well, it appears, at last, we’ve found at least part of the answer: they are doing both. A recent Wall Street Journal article noted that Fabulous System SDN BHD in Malaysia currently has Glocom products for sale on their website. Further investigation of Fabulous System’s website revealed that there are currently three products listed under the “Facom” brand, using Glocom’s signature font. Despite the product detail documents saying Facom, (and it clearly looks like a Photoshop job) a zoom into the product images still shows the Glocom logo on the radios. The Facom model numbers also line up with those from Glocom products.

Glocom Model Number Facom Model Number
GR-310 VHF/UHF Manpack Radio FA-301 VHF-UHF Tactical SATCOM Manpack/Mobile Radio
GR-250 VHF Tactical Manpack/Mobile Radio FA-250 VHF Tactical Manpack/Mobile Radio
GR-150 HF Manpack Radio FA-150 HF Tactical Manpack/Mobile Radio


Similarly, the product descriptions on Fabulous System’s website are nearly identical to those in the “Key Features” section of Glocom’s product brochures. This, in conjunction with the fact that the product numbers, logos, and fonts line up with Glocom’s, (the exception being the FA-301, which may be a typo) strongly suggests that these products come from Glocom.

Above: Font comparison between Facom and Glocom

Below: Note the “FA” in “FA-150” is not aligned with the rest of the text, especially on the bottom, and looks to be a different font entirely. 

In addition to Fabulous System’s distribution of Glocom products, I discovered another company that seems to be peddling Glocom’s wares (though we can’t be totally sure). Advanced Technology Facility (ATF) in Indonesia had at least five products listed on their website under the “EDSAT” brand which bear striking resemblance to Glocom’s in terms of appearance and product specifications. Three of these products were added in August, suggesting a new and evolving distribution relationship at the time.

In September they were removed from the EDSAT drop-down menu, but the individual pages are still available or can be viewed on archived versions of the website. ATF’s homepage also still advertises “EDSAT” branded radio communications devices. EDSAT is an acronym meaning “Encrypted Digital Secure Advanced Technology,” and is not a brand name that seems to appear anywhere else.

If the products on ATF’s site were indeed linked to Glocom, those ties were concealed much better than they were with Facom. Glocom’s signature font is absent from ATF’s website, and even the Glocom logo on the products themselves has been scrubbed, replaced with a fictional EDSAT logo. But the product descriptions are still an exact match to Glocom’s 2017 product catalogue, right down to the questionable phrasing and typos (for example, the phrase “ensures that operating the GR-150 [or ER-150] very simple” appears on descriptions for both Glocom and EDSAT products). Below is a chart detailing which EDSAT products correspond to which Glocom products:

Glocom Model Number EDSAT Model Number
GR-310 VHF/UHF Tactical SATCOM Manpack/Mobile Radio ER-310 VHF/UHF Tactical SATCOM
GR-452 ADS-B Receiver/ADS-B Transmitter ER-452 ADS-B Receiver/Transmitter
GR-150 HF Tactical Manpack/Mobile Radio ER-150
GR-611 UHF Secure Personal radio (SPR) ER-611
GR-621 Crypto Speaker Microphone ER-612


The Two-Track Approach

It’s unclear whether Fabulous System and ATF were aware that Glocom was the supplier of the goods they were distributing, or if Glocom’s use of aliases sufficiently masked their ties.  The Wall Street Journal article cites Fabulous System’s owner as saying he did not know anything about Glocom’s connections to the North Korean regime. While this is certainly plausible, the claim does sit at odds with the fact that the Glocom logo was visible on the product images Fabulous System uploaded on its site. Did no one notice and ask questions? Who created the Facom and EDSAT guises?

The two-track approach Glocom is taking to marketing and selling its wares is concerning. It suggests Glocom may still have customers who recognize and are drawn to its brand of military communications technology. Having a continued, online presence and catalogue may therefore be important to show existing or prospective buyers with whom it has an established relationship that it has attractive and new products to offer.

At the same time, the sale of Glocom products through third party vendors could indicate that it no longer feels able use the Glocom brand to access the wider commercial defense marketplace, especially to develop new customer relationships. A simple Google search for “Glocom” will yield a front page of results that includes mentions of the firm’s illegal links to North Korea’s intelligence agencies. If Glocom continues to take new steps to obfuscate the origin of the goods they sell, then tracking them will become more difficult.

But whichever track you look at, one thing is for sure: Glocom is most definitely still going strong.