Archive for the ‘Internet’ Category

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
2011-11-07

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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:

PRESS RELEASE

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 (www.nautilus.org) 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 nautilus@nautilus.org or at 415 422 5523.

Here is Yonahp coverage of the report.

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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.

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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)
2011-8-4

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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:

President
Star Joint Venture Company
Potonggang2-dong, Potonggang District
Pyongyang
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
Email: mptird@star-co.net.kp
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 www.star.co.kp. 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.

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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 http://www.kcna.kp/kor.  The new one is simply http://www.kcna.kp. The default language is Korean, but if you can read a little Korean, you can find the language settings and change the language to:

English: http://www.kcna.kp/goHome.do?lang=eng

Spanish: http://www.kcna.kp/goHome.do?lang=spa

Japanese: http://www.kcna.kp/goHome.do?lang=jpn

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

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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.

 

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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).

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Naenara, TaeMun, and KCNA get new URLs

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

UPDATE (1/14/2011): More form Martyn Williams here.

UPDATE (1/13/2011): According to Yonhap:

South Korea has blocked its people in the South from accessing Web sites using North Korea’s national Web domain name, saying the sites contain “illegal information” under the nation’s anti-communism and security laws, officials said Thursday.

The blockage by the South’s state-run Communications Standards Commission came less than a day after an expert said North Korea had renewed the use of its own national Web domain name of “.kp” in an apparent effort to widen public access to its propaganda sites.

The commission started blocking Web sites using the “.kp” domain from Internet users in the South attempting to view those sites, including an Internet portal with an address of http://www.naenara.com.kp, officials said.

“We continue to monitor propaganda activities by North Korea throughout the Internet,” said a commission official. “The Web sites were briefly accessible (in South Korea) because North Korea used its national domain (.kp) it had not used usually.”

Earlier in the day, Martyn Williams of IT research group IDG said in an e-mail that he found http://www.naenara.com.kp operating over the weekend while http://www.friend.com.kp and http://www.star.edu.kp likely came into use at about the same time. All of the sites use “.kp” — assigned to North Korea — as their final domain names.

“It was assigned in 2007 and managed by a company based in Germany, but the domain and a handful of sites also managed by the company disappeared in the second half of last year for reasons that are still unclear,” he wrote in his online article.

The re-emergence of the domain name represents “a step-up in the country’s Internet presence,” Williams said.

Kim Yong-hyun, a North Korea professor at Seoul’s Dongguk University, said, “North Korea seems to be trying to increase public access to its sites as part of its recent online propaganda campaign.”

The sites have separate addresses to allow Internet users to access them. According to Williams, the sites, which include one that represents the North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), all have their servers based in the communist country.

In the e-mail, the Tokyo-based technology expert said the main record for all the .kp names was updated on Jan. 3.

“So that’s the earliest any of these sites could have reappeared,” he said.

In recent months, North Korea has opened accounts at world-famous sites such as Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, drawing wide public attention. But the one on Facebook no longer operates while its Twitter and YouTube accounts were apparently hacked last weekend.

Naenara at http://www.naenara.com.kp is a multilingual portal site, and http://www.friend.com.kp is mainly an English Web site run by an organ that handles exchanges with other countries. The KCNA has its Web site at http://www.star.edu.kp.

South Korea bans its citizens from accessing pro-North Korea propaganda sites, citing the technical state of war it has been in with Pyongyang since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce.

UPDATE (1/11/2011): Martyn Williams at North Korea Tech offers some more information:

Offline for months, the service has resumed via servers run by Star JV, the Internet joint venture formed by the North Korean government and Thailand’s Loxley Pacific. As reported previously, dot-kp was run by the KCC Europe operation in Germany but went offline in the third quarter of last year.

Two websites are already available via KP domain names. Both are hosted on the same web server. The first, Naenara, has been available for a few months via an IP address and the second, Friend.com.kp, has been offline since its domain name disappeared. You can find out more about each site in The North Korean Website List.

I’ve done a little digging around in the DNS (domain name system) records for KP and found the following eight KP top-level domains have been prepared for future use: net.kp, com.kp, edu.kp, gov.kp, org.kp, rep.kp, tra.kp and co.kp.

Both Naenara and Friend are already using com.kp. A domain name has been prepared for the Star Internet provider: star.net.kp, and one for the state-run Korea Posts and Telecommunications Co.: kptc.kp. I can’t find any other registered domain names at present.

Friends.com.kp is the web page of the Committee for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries (aka TaeMun.  In Korean: 대외문화련락위원회)

UPDATE (1/9/2011): The Naenara URL came back online this weekend. The IP address http://175.45.176.14 has been replaced by the more memorable http://www.naenara.com.kp, though the IP address still works.  The Naenara mirror site, kcckp.net, apparently did not survive the transition.    Content from 2008 to the present is available, but all the content from 2005-2007 remains off-line and probably will not return.

ORIGINAL POST (Oct 28, 2010): North Korea’s premier web outlet, Naenara, was frequently inactive in the month of August.  Sometimes it was there, other times it was not.  The web portal was up for one day in September under a slightly different URL.  It has not appeared at all under its original URLs in October.

Today, Martyn Williams, who broke the story on the DPRK’s acquisition of a block of IP addresses, reports that Naenara has been migrated to the new DPRK addresses alongside the newly created KCNA web page.

According to Martyn:

North Korea’s Naenara website is back. The site went offline around early September when the dot-kp domain name space went down.

Naenara is run by Pyongyang’s Korea Computer Center and offers news, photos, shopping, tourism information and MP3 files from North Korea.

It’s running inside North Korea’s recently-activated domestic IP address space, but isn’t working perfectly. Some of the links point to dot-kp addresses, which are still not working. It’s worth keeping an eye on.

You can find it at http://175.45.176.14/en/

The IP address Martyn mentions is for the English version.

The Korean version is here: http://175.45.176.14/ko/

The French version is here: http://175.45.176.14/fr/

The Russian version is here: http://175.45.176.14/ru/

The German Version is here: http://175.45.176.14/de/

The Spanish version is here: http://175.45.176.14/sp/

The Chinese version is here: http://175.45.176.14/ch/

The Japanese version is here: http://175.45.176.14/ja/

The Arabic version is here: http://175.45.176.14/ar/

I will go through the new site to see if it is different in any way.  One obvious difference is that the archived materials from 2005 & 2007 are gone.

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Directory of North Korean web sites

Sunday, December 12th, 2010

Martyn Williams has created the most thorough information source of North Korean web pages of which I am aware.

Check out his work here.

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An affiliate of 38 North