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

    Russia's Expat Community Shrinking

    Russia's troubled economy, tensions with West have led hundreds of thousands of foreigners to leave for better opportunities

    Accelerating the Push Against Islamic State: What Will Work?

    Experts stress need to step up military action, address root causes of Muslims' disaffection, counter IS social media messages in a massive way

    Experts: N. Korean Abductions Sought to Halt Brain Drain

    Pyongyang abducted about 3,800 South Koreans and more than a dozen Japanese nationals in late 1970s

    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.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees with Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees with Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.