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

Afghanistan, Pakistan Leaders to Hold Icebreaking Talks in Paris

Two sides are expected to discuss ways to ease bilateral tensions and jointly work for resumption of stalled peace talks between Afghan government and Taliban officials

Corruption Busting Is Her Game

South African activist is building 'international online community of thousands of corruption fighters'

Former SAF Businessman Gives Books, Love of Reading to Students

Steve Tsakaris now involved in nonprofit Read to Rise, which distributes books in Soweto, encourages lower-grade primary school students to read

This forum has been closed.
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.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs