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

India PM Modi's party distances itself from religious conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote a Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert to Hinduism More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic 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.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid