Archive for the ‘Intranet’ Category

The DPRK’s internet, business, and radio wars

Friday, June 11th, 2010

Martyn Williams releases three DPRK stories this week all covering interesting issues…


North Korea Moves Quietly onto the Internet

North Korea, one of the world’s few remaining information black holes, has taken the first step toward a fully fledged connection to the Internet. But a connection, if it comes, is unlikely to mean freedom of information for North Korea’s citizens.

In the past few months, a block of 1,024 Internet addresses, reserved for many years for North Korea but never touched, has been registered to a company with links to the government in Pyongyang.

The numeric IP addresses lie at the heart of communication on the Internet. Every computer connected to the network needs its own address so that data can be sent and received by the correct servers and computers. Without them, communication would fall apart.

It is unclear how the country’s secretive leadership plans to make use of the addresses. It seems likely they will be assigned for military or government use, but experts say it is impossible to know for sure.

North Korea’s move toward the Internet comes as it finds itself increasingly isolated on the world stage. The recent sinking of a South Korean warship has been blamed on the insular country. As a result, there are calls for tougher sanctions that would isolate North Korea further.

“There is no place for the Internet in contemporary DPRK,” said Leonid A. Petrov, a lecturer in Korean studies at The University of Sydney, referring to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. “If the people of North Korea were to have open access to the World Wide Web, they would start learning the truth that has been concealed from them for the last six decades.”

“Unless Kim Jong-Il or his successors feel suicidal, the Internet, like any other free media, will never be allowed in North Korea,” he said.

The North Korean addresses were recently put under the control of Star Joint Venture, a Pyongyang-based company that is partly controlled by Thailand’s Loxley Pacific. The Thai company has experience working with North Korea on high-tech projects, having built North Korea’s first cellular telephone network, Sunnet, in 2002.

Loxley acknowledged that it is working on a project with Pyongyang, but Sahayod Chiradejsakulwong, a manager at the company, wouldn’t elaborate on plans for the addresses.

“This is a part of our business that we do no want to provide information about at the moment,” he said.

A connection to the Internet would represent a significant upgrade of the North’s place in cyberspace, but it’s starting from a very low base.

At present the country relies on servers in other countries to disseminate information. The Web site of the Korea Central News Agency, the North’s official mouthpiece, runs on a server in Japan, while Uriminzokkiri, the closest thing the country has to an official Web site, runs from a server in China.

North Korean citizens have access to a nationwide intranet system called Kwangmyong, which was established around 2000 by the Pyongyang-based Korea Computer Center. It connects universities, libraries, cybercafes and other institutions with Web sites and e-mail, but offers no links to the outside world.

Connections to the actual Internet are severely limited to the most elite members of society. Estimates suggest no more than a few thousand North Koreans have access to the Internet, via a cross-border hook-up to China Netcom. A second connection exists, via satellite to Germany, and is used by diplomats and companies.

For normal citizens of North Korea, the idea of an Internet hook-up is unimaginable, Petrov said.

Kim Jong-Il, the de-facto leader of the country, appears all too aware of the destructive power that freedom of information would have to his regime.

While boasting of his own prowess online at an inter-Korean summit meeting in 2007, he reportedly rejected an Internet connection to the Kaesong Industrial Park, the jointly run complex that sits just north of the border, and said that “many problems would arise if the Internet at the Kaesong Park is connected to other parts of North Korea.”

Kim himself has made no secret of the Internet access that he enjoys, and famously asked then-U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright for her e-mail address during a meeting in 2000.

The government’s total control over information extends even as far as requiring radios be fixed on domestic stations so foreign voices cannot be heard.

The policy shows no signs of changing, so any expansion of the Internet into North Korea would likely be used by the government, military or major corporations.

The World’s Most Unusual Outsourcing Destination

Think of North Korea, and repression, starvation and military provocation are probably the first things that come to mind. But beyond the geopolitical posturing, North Korea has also been quietly building up its IT industry.

Universities have been graduating computer engineers and scientists for several years, and companies have recently sprung up to pair the local talent with foreign needs, making the country perhaps the world’s most unusual place for IT outsourcing.

With a few exceptions, such as in India, outsourcing companies in developing nations tend to be small, with fewer than 100 employees, said Paul Tija, a Rotterdam-based consultant on offshoring and outsourcing. But North Korea already has several outsourcers with more then 1,000 employees.

“The government is putting an emphasis on building the IT industry,” he said. “The availability of staff is quite large.”

At present, the country’s outsourcers appear to be targeting several niche areas, including computer animation, data input and software design for mobile phones. U.S. government restrictions prevent American companies from working with North Korean companies, but most other nations don’t have such restrictions.

The path to IT modernization began in the 1990s but was cemented in the early 2000s when Kim Jong Il, the de-facto leader of the country, declared people who couldn’t use computers to be one of the three fools of the 21st century. (The others, he said, are smokers and those ignorant of music.)

But outsourcing in North Korea isn’t always easy.

Language can be a problem, and a lack of experience dealing with foreign companies can sometimes slow business dealings, said Tija. But the country has one big advantage.

“It is one of the most competitive places in the world. There are not many other countries where you can find the same level of knowledge for the price,” said Tija.

The outsourcer with the highest profile is probably Nosotek. The company, established in 2007, is also one of the few Western IT ventures in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital.

“I understood that the North Korean IT industry had good potential because of their skilled software engineers, but due to the lack of communication it was almost impossible to work with them productively from outside,” said Volker Eloesser, president of Nosotek. “So I took the next logical step and started a company here.”

Nosotek uses foreign expats as project managers to provide an interface between customers and local workers. In doing so it can deliver the level of communication and service its customers expect, Eloesser said.

On its Web site the company boasts access to the best programmers in Pyongyang.

“You find experts in all major programming languages, 3D software development, 3D modelling and design, various kind of server technologies, Linux, Windows and Mac,” he said.

Nosotek’s main work revolves around development of Flash games and games for mobile phones. It’s had some success and claims that one iPhone title made the Apple Store Germany’s top 10 for at least a week, though it wouldn’t say which one.

Several Nosotek-developed games are distributed by Germany’s Exonet Games, including one block-based game called “Bobby’s Blocks.”

“They did a great job with their latest games and the communication was always smooth,” said Marc Busse, manager of digital distribution at the Leipzig-based company. “There’s no doubt I would recommend Nosotek if someone wants to outsource their game development to them.”

Eloesser admits there are some challenges to doing business from North Korea.

“The normal engineer has no direct access to the Internet due to government restrictions. This is one of the main obstacles when doing IT business here,” he said. Development work that requires an Internet connection is transferred across the border to China.

But perhaps the biggest problem faced by North Korea’s nascent outsourcing industry is politics.

Sanctions imposed on the country by the United States make it all but impossible for American companies to trade with North Korea.

“I know several American companies that would love to start doing IT outsourcing in North Korea, but because of political reasons and trade embargoes they can’t,” Tija said.

Things aren’t so strict for companies based elsewhere, including those in the European Union, but the possible stigma of being linked to North Korea and its ruling regime is enough to make some companies think twice.

The North Korean government routinely practices arbitrary arrest, detention, torture and ill treatment of detainees, and allows no political opposition, free media or religious freedom, according to the most recent annual report from Human Rights Watch. Hundreds of thousands of citizens are kept in political prison camps, and the country carries out public executions, the organization said.

With this reputation some companies might shy away from doing business with the country, but Exonet Games didn’t have any such qualms, said Busse.

“It’s not like we worked with the government,” he said. “We just worked with great people who have nothing to do with the dictatorship.”

Radio Wars Between North and South Korea (YouTube Video)

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German NGO worker on the DPRK

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

According to the Times of India:

Economic sanctions by the United States and other western countries is actually strengthening the Kim Jong-il’s regime, a German social worker involved with a non-government organization told reporters here this morning. Sanctions are also affecting life in other ways like the new-found emphasis on sustainable agriculture, she said.

“The leaders are using the sanctions as a justification. People believe the country is in a bad condition because of outside forces,” Karin Janz, country director in North Korea for the German NGO Welthungerhilfe, said while speaking at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Beijing. The official media justified its actions as efforts to fortify the nation against the onslaught of foreign forces, and the people fully believed it, she said.

The sanctions have hit the North Korean agriculture and caused fears of a worsening of the food situation, Karin said. “The North Korean agriculture is highly industrialized,” she said while explaining the country’s agriculture is heavily dependent on imported farm machines and chemical fertilizers. Most of these materials came from South Korea, which has now slammed the doors.

The government has suddenly realized the value of sustainable development and is asking agricultural cooperatives to change their focus. They are being asked to go for organic farming, grow composts and reduce their dependence on chemicals. It is a new policy on sustainable development by default, she said.

“It could be a good start in the direction of sustainable development. But it is a long way to rehabilitate the soil, which is badly damaged” she said.

The Internet is banned to ensure that local citizens do not communicate with the outside world. There is a limited form of Intranet for university students to chat among themselves. But if the ban on Internet were to be lifted, most North Koreans will use it to absorb new knowledge and grow the country with new technological inputs.

“I cannot imagine some kind of opposition rising because it is simply not possible,” she said while discussing the highly militarized nature of the society. The government controls every aspect of life in North Korea and ordinary people seem to be comfortable living in some kind of a “safety shell”, she said.

Patriotism runs high among the people and most have full faith in their leaders. The only sign of dissatisfaction Karin saw was in January when currency reforms hit a large number of people very badly. People who held old currency notes suddenly found they could not exchange them for the new Won notes the government introduced early this year.

Welthungerhilfe is one of the few foreign NGOs that are still operating in North Korea when most of the others have left either because of the challenges posed by government rules and the drying of financing from western sources. There are many Chinese NGOs but the local government does not allow they to communication with those from western countries.

In her five years travelling across nine provinces of North Korea, Karin has not come across a single case of starvation. The food situation is bad, but it is not as grave as the western media tended to show, she said. The government has also done a fairly good job of developing infrastructure and provide school education although the conditions are still a far cry from what prevails in the developed world, she said.

Here is the Welthungerlife North Korea web page (in German).  Here is the page in English (via Google Translate).

I cannot prove it, but I am willing to bet that Welthungerhilfe built these greenhouses near Kujang (via Kernbeisser).  These greenhouses are too new to be visible on Google Earth.

Read the full story here:
Economic sanctions strengthen North Korea’s dictatorship, says German NGO
The Times of India
Saibal Dasgupta
4/20/2010

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DPRK’s Linux OS: Red Star

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

UPDATE 1:  South Korea’s Science and Technology Policy Initiative (STPI) did some analysis of the DPRK’s “Red Star” (붉은 별) operating system.  A PDF of the report can be found here (in Korean).  STPI has a couple of articles here and here in Korean.

The Korea Times reports on the study’s findings (in English):

According to researchers at South Korea’s Science and Technology Policy Institute (STEPI), North Korea’s Linux-based “RED Star” software is mainly designed to monitor the Web behavior of its citizens and control information made available to them.

However, the computer operating system does represent North Korean efforts to advance its computer technology, which lags as a result of the country’s isolation, relying on Linux and other open-source software, said Kim Jong-seon, a STEPI researcher.

“The fact that North Korea established a computer operating system to control the flow of information within the country is meaningful in itself. By improving its ability to develop Linux-based programs, North Korea seems to be looking to expand the use of its computer programs in more areas,” he said.

“There hasn’t been any research on North Korean computer operating systems and other software, and we need to assess the level of technology as well as the attempts to overcome the years of isolation through open source programs.”

Prior to developing Red Star in 2002, the North Korean government relied on the English version of Microsoft Windows, according to STEPI.

An analysis of Red Start 1.1, the version used around April 2008, suggests that the North Korean operating system is designed to provide a desktop environment similar to that of Microsoft Windows.

North Korea’s Korea Computer Center (KCC), which developed the software, has been consistently providing updated versions of the operating system, STEPI said.

Red Star’s programs include the “Uri 2.0” office application, based on the Linux Open Office, a “Naenara” (my country) Web browser, which is a variation of Firefox, a file-sharing program, and also a program to enable selected Microsoft applications.

One of the key features of Red Star is security-enhanced Linux (SELinux), which enables mandatory access control policies that limit user programs and systems servers to the minimum amount of freedom they require to do their jobs, STEPI said.

It’s hard to imagine Red Star, which supports only the Korean language, being used anywhere outside of North Korea, considering the complicated Web of local requirements, lack of compatibility and dearth of applications.

ORIGINAL POST: Below is an interesting article on the DPRK’s Linux-based operating system: Red Star.

red-star-linux.jpgNot only does North Korea have “its own Internet” – a national information network independent from the US-based Internet regulator – it also has an operating system, developed under by order of Kim Jong-il.

Russian student Mikhail, who studies in the Kim Il-sung University and writes a blog from the Russian embassy in Pyongyang, has recently purchased the Red Star Operating System (OS) and tested it. Courtesy of Mikhail, RT gives you an opportunity to take glimpse at IT life of world’s most closed country.

The Red Star is a Linux-based OS developed by North Korean IT specialists last year. Readme file, which goes with the install disc, even gives a quote from Kim Jong-il about how important for DPRK is to have its own Linux-based operating system compatible with Korean traditions.

The version tested by Mikhail is the latest build, which, according to locals, still needs polishing. The OS is not popular (yet?), with most people who need one preferring Windows XP and Windows Vista.

Mikhail bought his copy for about $5 in an information center 5 minutes walk from the university dorm. Interestingly, no permission is required for it, which is probably explained by the regulation of the sale of computers.

The system has server and client versions, and apps can be bought separately at twice the price.

redstar1.jpg

Installation of the Red Star is possible straight from the bootable disk, from hard drive, or via the net. The whole process takes 10 to 15 minutes. While the files are copied, the user is shown tips like in a Windows installation, saying that the system “is now faster and simpler”. Unlike Windows, you will not be allowed to select your system language: only Korean is available.

Then the system starts. Here is the logo on the start screen:

redstar2.jpg

User selection screen is standard. User “root” is the default one, while user “Kim” was created by Mikhail. The picture is that of a popular Korean cartoon character.

redstar3.jpg

Red Star desktop.

redstar4.jpg

Red Star cannot be called modest in terms of system requirements. You will need at least a Pentium III 800 Mhz with 256 Mb RAM and astounding 3Gb hard drive space!

The desktop is pretty much standard, with a My Computer icon, a trash bin and a link to a system tour. The red star in bottom left corner opens the system menu, while icons next to it are the quick launch panel. Notice the clock on the left – the year is 99th of the Juche Idea, the official North Korean ideology.

My Computer launches the file browser. Here is how it looks:

redstar5.jpg

Standard applications for the system are low in number: web-browser “My Country” (which is actually Firefox in disguise), a simple word processor, a picture viewer, a pdf reader, players for audio and video files, a file archiver, a virtual disk manager and stuff like calculator or symbol table. All the applications except the web-browser are named after their functionality.

The OS has its own keyboard layouts for Korean (does not match the Windows version), English, Russian, Chinese and Japanese.

There are also four games: Minesweeper, Klondike solitaire, Jawbreaker and a logic game where the player builds correct chemical formulae.

redstar6.jpg

Applications on the second disk included: service programs for the client version of Red Star, which strictly speaking should have been on the first disk, an office app suite “We”, similar to OpenOffice and another similar software suite, a program for recording CD/DVD, an e-mail client “Pigeon” (after the mail-delivering bird), Janggi board game (Korean chess), a fax communication tool, antivirus “Woodpecker”, notebook “My Comrade”, a graphics editing program, firewall “Pyongyang Fortress”, an engineer’s calculator and a Windows emulator.

redstar7.jpg

The Application Manager shown here is also used for system updates.

redstar8.jpg

Naenara web browser was successfully recognized by Firefox website, which offered downloads of the latest Korean version of the browser for Linux i686. Note that the default search engine is not Google but Naenara BBS. Since Mikhail was tinkering with the system in the embassy, where the Korean national network is not available, he had no opportunity to do some test searches.

redstar9.jpg

Mikhail did test the antivirus, however, which (along with the firewall) was built from scratch by North Korean coders rather than re-written from an open source applications. It did well at finding and killing the viruses offered to it.

redstar10.jpg

The Windows emulator worked well too. Mikhail launched Warcraft 3, and the game worked smoothly. So did the dictionary software and a digital library available on the disk.

redstar11.jpg

What is interesting for a North Korean product is the near-total absence of propaganda – unless you treat the word “red” in its name as an instance.

Read the full story here:
North Korea’s “secret cyber-weapon”: brand new Red Star OS
rt.com
3/1/010

Here is the original Russian source.

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DPRK IT update

Sunday, April 4th, 2010

According to the Korea IT Times:

The number of science and technology institutions in North Korea is estimated to hover around 300; about 200 institutions have been officially confirmed. Therefore, the North is unable to focus on building the hardware industry, which requires massive capital input and long-term investment, and is left with no choice, but to be keen on nurturing IT talent geared toward software development. As a result, the North has been producing excellent IT human resources in areas like artificial intelligence, needed for controlling man-made satellites and developing arms systems, and programming languages.

The following IT institutions are in charge of fostering the North’s software industry: DPRK Academy of Sciences, Korea Computer Center (KCC), Pyongyang Information Center (PIC) and Silver Star, which is currently under the KCC.

In particular, the creation of the PIC, modeled on the Osaka Information Center (OIC) at Osaka University of economics and law, was funded by Jochongnyeon, the pro-North Korean residents’ league in Japan, and was technologically supported by the UNDP. The Jochongnyeon-financed KCC has been responsible for program development and distribution; research on electronic data processing; and nurturing IT talent.

Thanks to such efforts, nearly 200,000 IT talents were fostered and about 10,000 IT professionals are currently working in the field. Approximately 100 universities such as Kim Il-sung University, Pyongyang University of Computer Technology and Kim Chaek University of Technology (KUT) – and 120 colleges have produced 10,000 IT human resources every year. At the moment, the number of IT companies in the North is a mere 250, while the South has suffered from a surplus of IT talent. Therefore, inter-Korean IT cooperation is of great importance to the two Koreas.

As aforementioned, the North has set its sights on promoting its software industry, which is less capital-intensive compared to the hardware industry. Above all, the North is getting closer to obtaining world-class technologies in areas such as voice, fingerprint recognition, cryptography, animation, computer-aided design (CAD) and virtual reality. However, the North’s lack of efficient software development processes and organized engineering systems remains a large obstacle to executing projects aimed at developing demand technology that the S. Korean industry wants. What is more, as the North lacks experiences in carrying out large-scale projects, doing documentation work in the process of development, and smoothing out technology transfer, much needs to be done to measure up to S. Korean companies’ expectations.

Thus, the North needs to build a system for practical on-the-job IT training that produces IT talent capable of developing demand technology- which S. Korean companies need. In addition, it is urgent for both Koreas to come up with an IT talent certification system that certifies both Koreas’ IT professionals.

Read the full story here:
North Korea Needs to Set Up Practical IT Training and Certification Systems
Korea IT Times
Choi Sung
4/2/2010

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New papers from Johns Hopkins US-Korea Institute

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

The third edition of the SAIS U.S.-Korea Yearbook chronicles important developments in North and South Korea that characterized their relations with their allies and enemies in 2008. Each chapter was written by SAIS students in the course, “The Two Koreas: Contemporary Research and Record,” in the fall of 2008. Their insights were based not only on extensive reading and study, but also on numerous interviews conducted with government officials, scholars, NGO workers, academics and private sector experts in both Washington and Seoul.

The Yearbook is divided into two parts: South Korea’s Foreign Relations and North Korea’s Foreign Relations. In the first part, student authors explore the dynamic foreign policy changes that were brought about by the Lee Myung-bak administration, and how these policies affected South Korean politics both at home and abroad. In the second part, student authors explore how shifting power dynamics both in the United States, as well as among the member states of the Six-Party Talks, affected North Korea’s foreign relations in 2008.

Here are links to the North Korea chapters:
Chapter 6The Torturous Dilemma: The 2008 Six-Party Talks and U.S.-DPRK Relations, by Shin Yon Kim.

Chapter 7U.S. Alternative Diplomacy towards North Korea: Food Aid, Musical Diplomacy, and Track II Exchanges, by Erin Kruth.

Chapter 8North Korean Human Rights and Refugee Resettlement in the United States: A Slow and Quiet Progress, by Jane Kim

The US Korea Institute has also published a New Working paper:

“State Over Society: Science and Technology Policy”
Download Here
ABSTRACT:
Since the late 1990s, the Kim Jong Il regime has laid an explicit emphasis on the role of science and technology (S&T) as an instrument of national power. Facing external security challenges, domestic economic stagnation, and rising political uncertainty stemming from the succession issue, North Korea has sought greater scientific and technological development for national revival. Yet few analysts have interrogated the contours of North Korea’s S&T policy or explored its dilemmas for the regime in Pyongyang. Considered a means of modernization, S&T strikes at the heart of manifold dilemmas facing the North Korean leadership as technology poses formidable challenges to the maintenance of political control by introducing new pressures to the balance of power between state and society. In this paper, Rian Jensen, a former USKI Student Fellow, identifies the goals of North Korea’s S&T policy, outlines its mode of implementation, assesses how science and technology is recalibrating North Korean state-society relations, and identifies key policy implications for the US government.

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Hermit Surfers of Pyongyang

Sunday, July 19th, 2009

Last week, North Korea was accused of  launching a series of annoying DOS attacks on web pages across the planet.  While doing some research on this story, I stumbled on “Hermit Surfers of Pongyang” by Stephen Mercato at the CIA.  This story highlights the ways the DPRK is using the Internet to support their system.  Below are some excerpts from the article:

Facilitating scientific research

The Internet has greatly enhanced the ease with which North Korea can acquire foreign data. Researchers can surf the Internet via a connection routed through the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications.  The accomplishments of Dr. Hwang Tok-man, a researcher on the biology faculty of Kim Il-song University, illustrates P’yongyang’s embrace of IT. Her research focus has been the structural and functional analysis of proteins, or proteomics. She also has explored the intersection of biology and information technology, compiling a “huge” structural database. Using an IBM Aptiva S-series computer and data from the Protein Database of the US Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory, she and a colleague examined the structure-function relationships of cellulases, enzymes that break down cellulose. They used the Align, Clustal V, and FASTA programs to compare the amino acid sequences and exploited overseas protein sequence databases to study the molecular evolution of a nuclease, an enzyme that splits nucleic acids.

The Internet has also eased the collection burden born by pro-DPRK Koreans living overseas. An article on the Web site of the Korean Association of Science and Technology in Japan (KAST), part of the [chongryun], describes the benefits of the Internet for KAST members who gather information in Japan for North Korea:

Data Dissemination 

In addition to enhancing foreign collection capabilities, the Internet has made dissemination of data within North Korea easier. Researchers based outside the capital no longer need to travel to P’yongyang for necessary information. For example, members of the Academy of Sciences, located on the outskirts of the capital, have for years commuted into the city on a particular train that “serves the convenience of the scientists to frequent the Grand People’s Study House and other organs.” Scientists now can access data of the GPSH, CSTIA, Kim Il-song University, and other data repositories via “Kwangmyong,” the DPRK S&T Intranet developed in 1997. Kwangmyong consists of a browser, an e-mail program, news groups, a search engine, and a file transfer system, programs developed by CSTIA. The online version of CSTIA’s Kwangmyong 2001 dictionary allows on-screen translation.

The Internet in the DPRK

While allowing researchers to use the Internet to keep current with global trends in science and technology, P’yongyang has been able to retain control over unwelcome political information. The government can promote scientific exploration while keeping researchers in country and under surveillance. Computers conducting Internet searches are more readily monitored than the photocopying machines that served to spread forbidden political tracts in the former Soviet Union. With Internet searches easily tracked and the penalties for political dissent grave, it is difficult to imagine scientists straying from technology sites. The same applies to the domestic Intranet, where technicians exchanging e-mail messages on political issues would run a serious risk of late-night knocks on the door by members of the security forces.

Read the full article here.

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North Korea on Google Earth v.18

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

North Korea Uncovered version 18 is available.  This Google Earth overlay maps North Korea’s agriculture, aviation, cultural locations, markets, manufacturing facilities, railroad, energy infrastructure, politics, sports venues, military establishments, religious facilities, leisure destinations, and national parks.

This project has now been downloaded over 140,000 times since launching in April 2007 and received much media attention last month following a Wall Street Journal article highlighting the work.

Note: Kimchaek City is now in high resolution for the first time.  Information on this city is pretty scarce.  Contributions welcome.

Additions to this version include: New image overlays in Nampo (infrastructure update), Haeju (infrastructure update, apricot trees), Kanggye (infrastructure update, wood processing factory), Kimchaek (infrastructure update). Also, river dredges (h/t Christopher Del Riesgo), the Handure Plain, Musudan update, Nuclear Test Site revamp (h/t Ogle Earth), The International School of Berne (Kim Jong un school), Ongjin Shallow Sea Farms, Monument to  “Horizon of the Handure Plain”, Unhung Youth Power Station, Hwangnyong Fortress Wall, Kim Ung so House, Tomb of Kim Ung so, Chungnyol Shrine, Onchon Public Library, Onchon Public bathhouse, Anbyon Youth Power Stations.

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Koryolink mobile services

Sunday, May 24th, 2009

UPDATE: Excellent information in the comments

ORIGNAL POST: Last week many press reports claimed that the DPRK’s newly launched 3-G mobile phone service includes limited Internet access.  To take one example from the Associated Press:

North Korea has begun limited Internet service for mobile phone users, a government Web site reported, months after launching an advanced network in cooperation with an Egyptian telecoms company.

The service allows North Koreans to access a Web site through their phones to see news reports carried by the country’s official Korean Central News Agency as well as news about the capital Pyongyang, according to the government-run Uriminzokkiri Web site.

Uriminzokkiri did not give any further details in its report Thursday on whether the service is restricted to the capital Pyongyang or is available elsewhere.

The number of mobile phone users had reached 20,000 by the end of March, including some foreigners, Tokyo-based Choson Sinbo newspaper, considered a mouthpiece for the North Korean regime, said earlier this month.

I have not yet been able to locate the story on Uriminzokkiri, but according to a follow up story in the AP:

The Korean-language Web site as seen on an ordinary computer screen also allows viewers to listen to North Korean music, get information about books, art and investment opportunities in North Korea and even engage in Internet chatting. It was unclear, however, if those services were available in the mobile version.

So the “Web site” is actually a portal, and I am 99.99% sure that  it is not connected to the Internet at all but to either the DPRK’s intranet network, called “Kwangmyong,” or to a newly built self-contained computer network.  As an aside, however, many North Koreans (in Pyongyang anyhow) are aware of the internet

Strangely, here is an advertisement of sorts about the DPRK’s mobile network which several readers have sent to me.  I believe this was produced by the Chongryun, but this is merely a guess:

koryolink.JPG

Click on image for You Tube video

Here is a little history on the DPRK’s experiences with mobile networks (via teleography):

Mobile phones are tightly controlled in North Korea and were banned until November 2002. Two months later incumbent fixed line telco Northeast Asia Telephone and Telecommunications (NEAT&T) launched GSM-900 services under the banner SUN NET. However, cellular devices were once again banned following an explosion on a train in June 2004, which was thought to have been triggered remotely by a wireless handset. In January 2008 Egypt-based telecoms operator Orascom Telecom announced to the surprise of most that CHEO Technology, a joint venture between itself (75%) and Korea Post and Telecoms Corp (25%), had been awarded a licence to operate 3G wireless services by the government. Under the terms of its licence, CHEO is permitted to provide mobile telephony services for 25 years, the first four of which on an exclusive basis. The company launched the country’s first 3G network in the capital in December 2008 under the name Koryolink. By April 2009 CHEO had reportedly signed up 20,000 subscribers and its 3G network had been expanded to include the main road running up to the northern city of Hyangsan, with national coverage expected by 2012.

Read more here:
NKorea opens limited Internet cell phone service
Associated Press (via Forbes)
5/21/2009

NKorea allows limited Internet cell phone service
Associated Press (via Yahoo)
Kwang tae Kim
5/22/2009

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North Korea Google Earth

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

North Korea Uncovered v.16
Download it here

laurent-kabila.jpg

The most recent version of North Korea Uncovered (North Korea Google Earth) has been published.  Since being launched, this project has been continuously expanded and to date has been downloaded over 32,000 times.

Pictured to the left is a statue of Laurent Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo.  This statue, as well as many others identified in this version of the project, was built by the North Koreans. According to a visitor:

From the neck down, the Kabila monument looks strangely like Kim Jong Il: baggy uniform, creased pants, the raised arm, a little book in his left hand. From the neck up, the statue is the thick, grim bald mug of Laurent Kabila (his son Joseph is the current president). “The body was made in North Korea,” explains my driver Felix. In other words, the body is Kim Jong Il’s, but with a fat, scowling Kabila head simply welded on.

This is particularly interesting because there are no known pictures of a Kim Jong il statue.  The only KJI statue that is reported to exist is in front of the National Security Agency in Pyongyang.  If a Kim Jong il statue does in fact exist, it might look something like this.

Thanks again to the anonymous contributors, readers, and fans of this project for your helpful advice and location information. This project would not be successful without your contributions.

Version 16 contains the following additions: Rakwon Machine Complex, Sinuiju Cosmetics Factory, Manpo Restaurant, Worker’s Party No. 3 Building (including Central Committee and Guidance Dept.), Pukchang Aluminum Factory, Pusan-ri Aluminum Factory, Pukchung Machine Complex, Mirim Block Factory, Pyongyang General Textile Factory, Chonnae Cement Factory, Pyongsu Rx Joint Venture, Tongbong Cooperative Farm, Chusang Cooperative Farm, Hoeryong Essential Foodstuff Factory, Kim Ki-song Hoeryong First Middle School , Mirim War University, electricity grid expansion, Tonghae Satellite Launching Ground (TSLG)” is also known as the “Musudan-ri Launching Station,” rebuilt electricity grid, Kumchang-ri suspected underground nuclear site, Wangjaesan Grand Monument, Phothae Revolutionary Site, Naedong Revolutionary Site, Kunja Revolutionary Site, Junggang Revolutionary Site, Phophyong Revolutionary Site, Samdung Revolutionary Site, Phyongsan Granite Mine, Songjin Iron and Steel Complex (Kimchaek), Swedish, German and British embassy building, Taehongdan Potato Processing Factory, Pyongyang Muyseum of Film and Theatrical Arts, Overseas Monuments built by DPRK: Rice Museum (Muzium Padi) in Malaysia, Statue de Patrice Lumumba (Kinshasa, DR Congo), National Heroes Acre (Windhoek, Namibia), Derg Monument (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia), National Heroes Acre (Harare, Zimbabwe), New State House (Windhoek, Namibia), Three Dikgosi (Chiefs) Monument (Gaborone, Botswana), 1st of May Square Statue of Agostinho Neto (Luanda, Angola), Momunment Heroinas Angolas (Luanda, Angola), Monument to the Martyrs of Kifangondo Battle (Luanda, Angola), Place de l’étoile rouge, (Porto Novo, Benin), Statue of King Béhanzin (Abomey, Benin), Monument to the African Renaissance (Dakar, Senegal), Monument to Laurent Kabila [pictured above] (Kinshasa, DR Congo).
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Download glitch fixed: North Korea Google Earth (version 11)

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

The most authoritative map of North Korea on Google Earth
Download it here

This map covers North Korea’s agriculture, aviation, cultural locations, markets, manufacturing facilities, railroad, energy infrastructure, politics, sports venues, military establishments, religious facilities, leisure destinations, and national parks. It is continually expanding and undergoing revisions. This is the eleventh version.

Additions include: Mt. Paegun’s Ryonghung Temple and resort homes, Pyongyang’s Chongryu Restaurant, Swiss Development Agency (former UNDP office), Iranian Embassy, White Tiger Art Studio, KITC Store, Kumgangsan Store, Pyongyang Fried Chicken Restaurant, Kilju’s Pulp Factory (Paper), Kim Chaek Steel Mill, Chongjin Munitions Factory, Poogin Coal Mine, Ryongwun-ri cooperative farm, Thonggun Pavilion (Uiju), Chinju Temple (Yongbyon), Kim il Sung Revolutionary Museum (Pyongsong), Hamhung Zoo, Rajin electrified perimeter fence, Pyongsong market (North Korea’s largest), Sakju Recreation Center, Hoeryong Maternity Hospital, Sariwon Suwon reservoir (alleged site of US massacre), Sinpyong Resting Place, 700 Ridges Pavilion, Academy of Science, Hamhung Museum of the Revolutionary Activities of Comrade Kim Il Sung, South Hamgyong House of Culture, Hamhung Royal Villa, Pork Chop Hill, and Pyongyang’s Olympic torch route. Additional thanks go to Martyn Williams for expanding the electricity grid, particularly in Samjiyon, and various others who have contributed time improving this project since its launch.

Disclaimer: I cannot vouch for the authenticity of many locations since I have not seen or been to them, but great efforts have been made to check for authenticity. These efforts include pouring over books, maps, conducting interviews, and keeping up with other peoples’ discoveries. In many cases, I have posted sources, though not for all. This is a thorough compilation of lots of material, but I will leave it up to the reader to make up their own minds as to what they see. I cannot catch everything and I welcome contributions.  Additionally, this file is getting large and may take some time to load.

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