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North Korea: Steering clear of the internet


Why is it that I find North Korea so fascinating? I marvel at the way in which an entire population can be kept so completely in the dark, believing the party line that it lives in a paradise. Populations of former communist states such as East Germany were under no such illusions. Those near the border with west Germany could watch television or listen to radio and there was much coming and going between the two halves of Germany. The same went for most of the European Soviet satellite and it was inevitable that modern communications would hasten the end. In fact, it has often been said that the fax machine led directly to the downfall of the Soviet Union.

North Koreans, despite the communications advances of the 20 years since the end of communism, soldier on in what appears to be total ignorance of what is happening beyond their borders. BBC Technology has an absolutely fascinating account of how North Korea is attempting to provide a semblence of modern communication without sacrificing its secrecy.

Read: Surfing the Internet in North Korea

For starters, North Korean computers don’t run Windows. Instead, they have a customised version of Linux called Red Star. There is no internet except for the very privileged few. Instead, the hoipolloi is connected to the home-grown Kwangmyong net which has controlled and very narrow content. Every page has a small piece of code which is designed to increase the font size and weight of any reference to the leader, Kim Jong-un. Magic.