News / Asia

Three Questions: North Korea and the Internet

A North Korean teenager learns to use a computer which displays an image of western fighter jets at the Kumsong School, a performing arts and IT-specialist school in Pyongyang, North Korea (FILE).
A North Korean teenager learns to use a computer which displays an image of western fighter jets at the Kumsong School, a performing arts and IT-specialist school in Pyongyang, North Korea (FILE).

North Korea traditionally has used Internet companies outside its borders to connect its websites to the world.  

But technology watchers noticed this month that a website for the official Korean Central News Agency - KCNA -  appeared to be operating from an Internet address inside North Korea.  KCNA is the first from a group of about 1,000 Internet addresses that had been set-aside for North Korea but never used.

VOA spoke with Martyn Williams, the Tokyo bureau chief for the IDG [International Data Group] News Service. He covers technology issues in Japan and South Korea.

How have North Korea's Internet habits evolved?

Recently, what we found is that North Korea appears to have started using the Internet and websites that actually are based inside North Korea.  For some time, there have been several North Korean websites on the Internet, but most of those have been run from servers in other countries, computers in China or computers in Japan have been running these sites.  A little under a year ago, North Korea started to look at how it could use the Internet itself, and it started a company with a partner in Thailand.  And they started looking towards using the Internet and recently what happened was some of the first connections from inside North Korea were connected to the Internet.

How do you know if the servers are in North Korea or not?

The first answer is that there's absolutely no way we can know for sure, but there are several things that lead us to believe that.  

The first is that the addresses the computer used are addresses that have been reserved for use by North Korea.  Some of these other websites use addresses for China or use addresses for Japan.  The websites we're talking about are using addresses for North Korea.  

Secondly, if we try to follow the traffic, follow the Internet data, it goes across the Internet.  In my case, I'm in Tokyo, so it goes from Tokyo, and it travels across the Internet and it goes into China, and then from China, there's just one more step to the computer on the North Korean Internet and that would make sense.  North Korea could only get an Internet connection from two countries, it would have to connect to China or would have to connect to Russia, because they're the two countries bordering it on the northern side, and it makes much more sense that North Korea is connected to the Internet via China. So according to all the data we have, that's what it looks like.  

It's almost sure, but like with anything on the Internet, we can't be 100% sure until we actually confirm it, and at the moment, no one in North Korea will confirm it to us.

For several years, North Korea has been very reluctant to directly connect to the Internet.  Why are they putting the official North Korean news agency on the Internet now?


This is obviously where I just start guessing, but I can probably give you several good guesses why.  

The first one would be that the KCNA website as you know is operated from Tokyo, if they operated from Pyongyang, it's much easier for them.  The KCNA staff in Pyongyang can have direct access to the computer.  Actually, if you look at the news, the news goes on the new website much faster than it goes on the Japanese website, so probably part of it is they just want to have their own website in their own office that they have complete control of.  

Secondly, I think if you look at all of the statements that North Korea said about the Internet, and also what [North Korean leader] Kim Jong Il has said about the Internet, he's said that he accesses the Internet and he uses the Internet.  I think there are many people, or some people, in North Korea that know a lot about the Internet, they're not stupid, that's why they don't allow access to the citizens.  They know that if they give ordinary people access, the ordinary people are going to find out a lot of things about the world, and a lot of things about North Korea that they never knew.

I think part of it for KCNA is just to have their own website.  Also, recently we saw that North Korea has started a Twitter feed and started You Tube and things like that.  So, maybe they're planning more websites.  They're probably not planning to give Internet access to more people in North Korea, but this is probably for information going from North Korea to the rest of the world.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs