Archive for the ‘Internet’ Category

Sawaris second DPRK trip and KoryoLink subscription data

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

The CEO of Egypt’s Orascom Telecom, Naguib Sawiris, has made his second visit to the DPRK. You can read about his first visit in January 2011 here.

Pictured above (KCNA): Naguib Sawiris meets with Kim Yong-nam.

KCNA reported that Mr.Sawiris arrived on February 1 (video here):

Pyongyang, February 1 (KCNA) — Naguib Sawiris, executive chairman of the Orascom Telecom Media and Technology Holdings SAE, and his companion arrived here on Wednesday.

On February 2, KCNA reported that Mr. Sawiris met with Kim Yong-nam (video here):

Kim Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of the DPRK Supreme People’s Assembly, met and had a friendly talk with Naguib Sawiris, executive chairman of the Orascom Telecom Media and Technology Holdings SAE of Egypt, and his companion who paid a courtesy call on him at the Mansudae Assembly Hall Thursday.

KCNA reported that Sawiris left on February 3, however, before leaving he praised Kim Jong-il and offered a gift to Kim Jong-un. Accoridng to KCNA:

Naguib Sawiris, executive chairman of the Orascom Telecom Media and Technology Holdings SAE of Egypt, was interviewed by KCNA before his departure from here.

Expressing profound reverence for leader Kim Jong Il, he said:

The Korean people lost a great leader. I also lost the most friendly man. General Kim Jong Il was a great father of the people.

I can never forget the day when I had the honor of being received by him.

While meeting him, I was totally attracted by his humanity.

He was the greatest man possessed of the noblest virtue.

His untimely passing was a great loss not only to the Korean people but to progressive humankind.

He devoted his all to his people with ardent love for the people.

While staying in the DPRK I was deeply moved to visit the Pyongyang Children’s Foodstuff Factory honored with the leadership provided by Kim Jong Il.

He paid deep attention to the operation of the factory.

The tireless efforts made by him for the happiness of the people will be conveyed to posterity for all ages.

The Korean people are energetically pushing forward socialist construction under the sagacious leadership of supreme leader Kim Jong Un.

I sincerely rejoice over the achievements made by the Korean people.

I wish the Korean people greater progress.

I would like to make a positive contribution to boosting the exchange with the DPRK.

His gift to Kim Jong-un remains unknown for now:

The dear respected Kim Jong Un, supreme leader of the Workers’ Party of Korea and the Korean people, received a gift from the executive chairman of the Orascom Telecom Media and Technology Holdings SAE of Egypt.

Chairman Naguib Sawiris handed it to an official concerned on Thursday.

While in the DPRK, Orascom holding announced that it had reached 1 million mobile phone subscribers in the DPRK. According to Bloomberg:

Orascom Telecom Media & Technology Holding SAE, an Egyptian mobile-phone operator headed by billionaire Naguib Sawiris, said its subscribers in North Korea exceeded 1 million.

The Cairo-based company made the annoucement in a regulatory filing today.

The Economist offers some business statistics:

Koryolink earns a gross margin of 80%, making North Korea by far the most profitable market in which Orascom operates. The company has worked hard to court the regime, its chairman travelling to Pyongyang last year to meet the late supreme leader, Kim Jong Il.

North Korean mobile-phone users spend an average of $13.90 a month on calls and text messages, and they tend to pay in hard currency. According to a foreign diplomat, many customers turn up at Koryolink shops with bundles of euro notes. There are even incentives for paying in euros, such as free off-peak calls. This provides foreign currency for a government that craves it.

Mobile-phone customers obtain the hard currency from the informal private trading on which many North Koreans depend. Such business is forbidden, but the government has failed to feed its people, forcing it to turn a blind eye to some capitalist practices. Many insiders benefit: Pyongyang’s “golden couples” consist of a government-official husband and an entrepreneur wife.

Mobile usage now appears to be spreading beyond Pyongyang. The gadgets are a common sight in other cities such as Nampo, not far from the capital, and increasingly are owned by non-officials. As yet, though, only a sixth of the country has a mobile signal.

Martyn Williams has specifics on the corporate structure of the service and service statistics:

The company is operated by Cheo Technology, which is a joint venture between Egypt’s Orascom Telecom Media And Technology Holding (OTMT) and North Korea’s Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications. OTMT holds a 75 percent stake and the North Korean government owns the remaining 25 percent.

Koryolink’s service has popularized cell phones and visitors to Pyongyang say they are now a common site on the city streets. The Koryolink network covers the capital city in addition to 14 major cities, 86 smaller cities, and 22 highways. That equals 14 percent of the landmass but about 94 percent of the population, according to Orascom.


Uriminzokkiri using social networking to spread DPRK propaganda

Monday, November 14th, 2011

Pictured above is a screen shot from the Uriminzokkiri web page featuring the social networking buttons

According to Yonhap:

North Korea’s government-run Web site began linking posts critical of South Korea to popular social networking sites (SNS) to allow netizens to more easily spread its message online, in its latest effort to step up cyber propaganda.

The official Web site of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification, Uriminzokkiri, on Monday inserted six SNS icons, including Twitter, Facebook and Korean micro-blogging services, in two postings critical of the South Korean government, according to Yonhap’s monitoring team on North Korea.

Other articles on the site, however, did not include the icons, showing the North’s apparent intention to drive more traffic to specific Web sites when it comes to stories critical of Seoul, the analysis noted.

South Korean authorities ban Web sites containing communist information, illegal under the National Security Law, but some people take advantage of proxy servers to gain access to the blocked sites in the communist state, raising concern that such a bypass will be abused to promote the Pyongyang regime.

Uriminzokkiri (“on our own” in Korean), which opened a Twitter account in August of last year, posts 5-10 messages daily, with 10,000 followers across the world. The propaganda mouthpiece also created its own channel on Youtube, putting up over 1,800 video clips of performances and events by North Korean military and art troupes.

In January of this year, hackers were able to break into Uriminzokkiri’s Twitter and YouTube accounts.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea’s propaganda Web site adds links to SNS sites
Kim Eun-jung


Apple iPads spotted in Pyongyang

Monday, November 7th, 2011

Pictured above (Google Earth): Changwang street runs north from the Pyongyang Central Train Station to the Potonggang Gate–straight through the Workers’ Party Leadership Compound (AKA the “Forbidden City”)

According to the Daily NK:

As the use of multimedia devices continues to spread among wealthy kids from the Pyongyang elite keen to ride the ‘Korean Wave’ of South Korean cultural influences, it appears that ownership of an Apple i-Pad tablet computer has now also become one symbol of ‘cool.’

The most common and popular multimedia devices used by younger generations in Pyongyang are still MP4 players and DVD playback devices with USB compatibility, of course; however, on Changgwang St. in the very heart of Pyongyang a few people have recently been witnessed wielding the popular Apple machines.

“Notebook computers are pretty common in Pyongyang,” one Chinese businessman who visits Pyongyang 2 to 3 times a year told Daily NK on the 6th, “But i-Pads are now a symbol of wealth; someone in Pyongyang requested one from me for their child.”

“I also witnessed a person using an i-Pad on Changgwang Street and PSM officers did not stop this, while the user did not seem to care about getting in trouble,” the source went on, adding, “There are many foreigners in that area so they are probably trying to adopt a sophisticated image.”

One Orascom official also previously reported witnessing the use of an i-Pad in Pyongyang. However, it is not possible to use the product’s 3G cellular facility in the city as yet.

In an interview with Radio Free Asia (RFA) on the 8th, an official with the Egyptian company stated, “We are planning to develop a SIM card so that I-pads can be used in North Korea by the end of this year,” explaining “There is a 3G network for cell phones in North Korea, so as long as you insert a SIM card you’ll be able to use it.”

Naturally, the internet is not available to domestic users of phones in North Korea either, while the i-Pad is renowned worldwide for its lack of USB ports, too, much less a DVD drive, so while the elite may be obtaining the devices one way or another, only those lucky enough to live abroad can really use them.

iPods have been popular in the DPRK for some time. More than once have tourists been propositioned to give up their portable music devices.

Read the full story here:
Even i-Pads Are in Pyongyang Now
Daily NK
Park Jun Hyeong


North Korea on the Cusp of Digital Transformation

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

The Nautilus Institute has published a new paper by Alexandre Mansurov on the DPRK’s communication and technology sectors.  The press release and a link to the paper are below:


The DPRK mobile communications industry has crossed the Rubicon, and the North Korean government can no longer roll it back without paying a severe political price. The most the authorities can do now is probably to manage its rapid expansion in such a way that will ensure that the interests of the political regime and state security are taken care of first.

While traditionally, the State Security Department monitored most communications on a daily basis, the implication of this explosion of mobile phone use is that communication in North Korea has transitioned from a panopticon of total control to a voluntary compliance system where the government makes an example of a select group to try and force the rest of the country to stay in line.

Alexandre Y. Mansourov, a Nautilus Institute Senior Associate, comprehensively examines information technology in North Korea. As of 2008 the regime launched a world-class 3G mobile communications service, which gained almost 700,000 users in less than three years of operation, revealing an insatiable demand for more robust and extensive telecommunications services among the North Korean general population.

Download the report here

About the Nautilus Institute: Since its founding in 1992, the Nautilus Institute ( has evolved into a thriving public policy think-tank and community resource. The Institute addresses a myriad of critical security and sustainability issues including the United States nuclear policy in Korea and energy, resource and environmental insecurity in Northeast Asia. Over the years, Nautilus has built a reputation for innovative research and analysis of critical global problems and translating ideas into practical solutions, often with high impact.

For more information, contact the Nautilus Institute at [email protected] or at 415 422 5523.

Here is Yonahp coverage of the report.


Orascom plans to offer mobile Internet service in DPRK

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

Via Geoffrey See at Choson Exchange:

On my last trip to Pyongyang, I had the opportunity to catch up with some Egyptian expatriates from Orascom Telecom Holding over popcorn and whiskey. They were also kind enough to bring our team clubbing into the wee hours of morning.

Orascom Holdings is three companies each headed by a different brother of the Orascom family. Orascom Telecoms is headed by Naguib Sawiris, while the resorts arm Orascom Development is run by Samir Sawiris, and the construction arm Orascom Construction by another brother. All three brothers have stakes in different assets in North Korea, with the infamous Ryuggyong Hotel owned by Samih Sawiris. As of May 2010, when I had met Samih Sawiris in Switzerland, he had yet to visit Pyongyang. Recent pictures from Pyongyang indicate that this has changed.

The most exciting development to us was Orascom’s 3G Internet service which was still under the testing phase. The plan is to roll out this service in the near future, although the service will only be available to resident foreigners in the initial phase. Approval for this service to be provided on a larger-scale to North Korean citizens, in any censored form, has yet to be given although the infrastructure to do so is in place. For foreign residents in Pyongyang, the service could offer cost-savings of up to 60-80 percent over current satellite internet offerings. There is no information on what security trade-off such a service might entail.

We also discussed text advertising and the current mobile service business. While text advertising is possible, there has yet to be approval for the company to run such a service. Currently, handsets cost Euro 50 each and there is a monthly subscription fee of 900 Won (we are not sure how this cost scales with usage). For reference, the unofficial exchange rate has fluctuated around 2500 to 3500 Won to 1 Euro this year.

Click here to see previous posts about Orascom and cell phones in the DPRK.


KCC finding creative ways to earn hard currency

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

Pictured above (Google Earth): Korea Computer Center

According to the Associated Press (Via Washington Post):

South Korean police said Thursday they have arrested five people who allegedly collaborated with elite North Korean hackers to steal millions of dollars in points from online gaming sites.

The five, including a Chinese man, were arrested and another nine people were booked without physical detainment after they worked with North Koreans to hack South Korean gaming sites, the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency said in a statement.

Members of the hacking ring, which included North Korea’s technological elite, worked in China and shared profits after they sold programs that allowed users to rack up points without actual play, police said.

The points were later exchanged for cash through sites where players trade items to be used for their avatars. The police said the ring made about $6 million over the last year and a half.

A police investigator, who declined to be identified because the investigation was under way, said North Korean hackers were asked to join the alleged scheme because they were deemed competent and could help skirt national legal boundaries.

The police pointed to North’s Korea Computer Center as the alleged culprit. Set up in 1990, the center has 1,200 experts developing computer software and hardware for North Korea, the police said.

The National Intelligence Service, South Korea’s spy agency, was heavily involved in the investigation, the police said. Investigators suspect the hackers’ so-called “auto programs” could be used as a conduit for North Korean cyberattacks.

South Korean authorities have accused North Korea of mounting cyberattacks in the past few years. Prosecutors said earlier this year that the North hacked into a major South Korean bank’s system and paralyzed it for days. The North is also accused of mounting attacks on U.S. and South Korean websites. Pyongyang has denied the charges.

The New York Times adds the following details:

In a little less than two years, the police said, the organizers made $6 million. They gave 55 percent of it to the hackers, who forwarded some of it to agents in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea. “They regularly contacted North Korean agents for close consultations,” Chung Kil-hwan, a senior officer at the police agency’s International Crime Investigation Unit, said during a news briefing.

Mr. Chung said the hackers, all graduates of North Korea’s elite science universities, were dispatched from two places: the state-run Korea Computer Center in Pyongyang and the Korea Neungnado General Trading Company. The company, he said, reports to a shadowy Communist Party agency called Office 39, which gathers foreign hard currency for Mr. Kim through drug trafficking, counterfeiting, arms sales and other illicit activities.

Read the full story here:
South Korean police say they’ve cracked down on ring working with North Korean hackers
Associated Press (Via Washington Post)


Star JV Co. takes over .kp domain

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

UPDATE (2011-5-19): Martyn Williams writes in PC World:

Control of North Korea’s top-level Internet domain has been formally assigned to a government-backed venture after the previous operator, a German company, let the national domain disappear from the Internet for several months.

The dot-kp domain was officially transferred at the beginning of May to Star Joint Venture, a North Korean-Thai company that has been chartered with providing “modern Internet services” to the insular country. Star JV has been in de-facto control of the domain name since December last year.

Dot-kp was first assigned in 2007 to the Korea Computer Center, one of the country’s top computer science establishments. KCC had agreed to let a German businessman, Jan Holtermann, set up a satellite Internet connection to North Korea and run the dot-kp domain through a German company, KCC Europe.

The company ran the domain and a handful of North Korean websites from servers in Berlin until mid 2010 when they suddenly disappeared from the Internet.

“In 2010, the authoritative name servers for the .KP became completely lame, effectively stopping the top-level domain from operating,” said the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), the body that coordinates basic addressing functions of the Internet, in a report published this week.

“Korea Computer Center reached out to KCC Europe, its Germany-based technical registry provider, to have service reinstated. After several months without response, Korea Computer Center terminated KCCE’s agreement to operate the .KP domain,” the report said.

At around the same time, Star JV was beginning to bring Internet connectivity to Pyongyang via China. The company had already taken control of IP (Internet Protocol) addresses long reserved for North Korea but never used, and it brought the country’s first website onto the global Internet around October 2010.

The site, for the domestic news agency, was initially only accessible via its IP address since the dot-kp DNS (Domain Name Service) was still under the control of KCC Europe.

But that changed in December “in light of the continuing lack of operation of the dot-kp,” said the IANA report.

The Korea Computer Center supported giving Star JV interim control of the dot-kp domain and the first websites began using North Korean domain names in January this year.

The change was made official in May when the IANA database was updated to show Star JV as the coordinator of the domain.

Several attempts to contact Jan Holtermann, the German businessman that ran KCC Europe, both for this story and previous stories have proved unsuccessful. German company records show KCC Europe was dissolved on Jan. 31 this year.

ORIGINAL POST (2011-5-5): According to Martyn Williams:

Control of North Korea’s dot-KP Internet top-level domain has been assigned to Star JV, the North Korean-Thai joint venture that’s behind the recent wiring of Pyongyang to the global Internet.

The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), which administers country code domains, updated its database on Monday, May 2, to assign the KP domain to “Star Joint Venture Company.”

This means control for the KP domain now rests with Star JV. Star took control of North Korea’s Internet address space last year and has been building up the North Korean Internet.

Switch of control to Star doesn’t come as a surprise as the company started issuing dot-kp domains in January this year. It’s a further sign that the joint venture between the North Korean government and Thailand’s Loxley Pacific is now responsible for the DPRK’s Internet links with the rest of the world.

The administrative and technical contact details are now listed as:

Star Joint Venture Company
Potonggang2-dong, Potonggang District
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
Email: [email protected]
Voice: +8502 381 3180
Fax: +8502 381 4418

That’s the address and contact details of the international relations department of North Korea’s Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications.

The website for domain name registration is listed as This website came online in the last few weeks, but it’s still being built.

Administrative control of the domain name was previously held by the Korea Computer Center with technical control in the hands of Jan Holtermann, the German businessman who previously ran a satellite-Internet connection to the country.

Martyn has been keeping an eye on the Star JV co for some time.  See here, here, and here.

Previous posts on the Korea Computer Center are here.


KCNA web page gets a makeover

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

There are two KCNA web pages.  The older one is run by the Chongryun in Japan (here). The newer one is managed by the Korea Computer Center (KCC). This newer web page was recently updated. It went off line a few days ago and emerged today with a different format. You can see a screen shot above.

The URL is slightly different.  The previous version of the KCC’s KCNA web page was  The new one is simply The default language is Korean, but if you can read a little Korean, you can find the language settings and change the language to:




Another great change has been the addition of a reasonably functional search bar.  The older Chongryun KCNA web page has no search function (Hooray for the Stalin Search Engine).  The previous version of the KCC’s KCNA web page contained a search bar that was too small to type “Kim Jong il”.  Now you can do a search for “The Great Leader Comrade Kim Jong il”–which produces one result.

No doubt Martyn Williams will have more to say about this page when the sun gets to his side of the planet.  Today he reports on the launch of the DPRK’s new Voice of Korea web page.

Below are some recent posts on the DPRK’s moves to the internet:

KCNA re-launched on DPRK-owned IP address

Hackers find creative way to celebrate KJU birthday

DPRK organization opens Twitter account

Uriminzokkiri on Youtube

Naenara, TaeMun, and KCNA get new URLs

Martyn William’s list of DPRK web pages


Pyongyang Times available at Naenara

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

The Pyongyang Times is the DPRK’s weekly English-language newspaper.  It has long been available via Naenara, but restricted behind an exclusive login and password.  On Friday I noticed that the articles are now free to view without an account.

Pictured above is the main screen for the current issue.

Click here to read the Pyongyang Times in English.  It appears to be available in the other languages in which Naenara posts as well.



DPRK tops 3-G ranking

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

According to Martyn Williams at North Korea Tech:

The late start of cellular telephony in North Korea has brought the country at least one advantage: it leads the world in 3G adoption.

An impressive 99.9 percent of all subscribers in the country use 3G, placing North Korea number one in the world, telecommunication analyst TeleGeography said on Wednesday.

The solid showing doesn’t really mean North Korea’s cellular network is ahead of the world. In fact, it does more to illustrate how statistics can sometimes provide only half the picture.

While 3G adoption is indeed strong, it’s because most people didn’t have a chance to subscribe to the country’s 2G network.

A small handful of subscriptions on the Sunnet network were allowed before restrictions were put in place in the wake of the Ryongchon train explosion in 2004. Phones were also expensive and the network was not available nationwide.

In contrast the 3G network has been made more widely available. It’s operated by Koryolink, a joint venture between the state-run Korea Posts and Telecommunications Co. and Egypt’s Orascom.

Koryolink had 301,199 subscriptions at the end of its third quarter, which represents a penetration of just over 1 percent of the country – that’s poor by international standards.

In contrast, Japan ranked second in the survey with 94.6 percent of cell phone users on 3G. That works out to about 115 million lines.

Read more here (image source).