Archive for the ‘Intranet’ Category

N.Korea Likely to Provide Internet Service from 2009

Thursday, August 7th, 2008

Choson Ilbo

It seems likely that North Korea will finally join the worldwide web and provide Internet service from next year. Kim Sang-myung, the chief of the North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity, a group of former North Korean professionals, at a symposium in the National Assembly on Wednesday said, “According to the Internet Access Roadmap it launched in 2002, North Korea will begin providing Internet service for special agencies and authorized individuals as early as next year.”

Kim defected from North Korea in 2004, when he was a professor of computer engineering at Communist University. An expert on North Korea’s information technology, he is currently an adjunct professor at Kyonggi University and a fellow at the Institute of North Korea Studies.

Implementation of the roadmap, which major agencies such as the Workers’ Party, the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications, the Ministry of Electronic Industry, and the North Korea Academy of Sciences have pushed for under the instructions of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il since 2002, is now at its final stage, he said.

First of all, North Korea will establish infrastructure for a super-speed Internet service network by laying optical cables between Pyongyang and Hamhung and extending them to Chongjin and Shinuiju this year. North Korea has recently succeeded in consolidating security solutions for the prevention of online leaks of data to foreign countries and of online intrusions, and in enhancing service stability.

It has also recently finished necessary consultations with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) for the Internet service in North Korea. In this situation, North Korea can begin providing Internet service any time provided equipment for server and Internet-based relay systems is supplied, Kim said.

“North Korea is strongly determined to be part of the global community through the Internet,” he said. “After watching China and Vietnam control the Internet effectively although these countries have opened up Internet wireless networks since the early days of their opening, the North has concluded that it can now introduce the Internet service.”

Currently, North Korea provides only a limited service via a kind of Intranet called Kwangmyong, through which it is possible to access databases on scientific and technological information at North Korean central government agencies.


Wireless Comms, Internet in Kaesong Industrial Complex and Kumgang Mountain Tourist Resort

Monday, December 17th, 2007

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
NK Brief No. 07-12-17-1


North and South Korea are poised to allow Internet, telephone, and cellular services to be available in the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) and at the Kumgang Mountain Tourist Resort beginning next year. The 7th Defense Ministerial Talks opened on December 12 at the ‘Peace House’ on the South Korean side of Panmunjum, and at the meeting, North and South Korea reached an agreement regarding communications, transportation, and customs.

According to the agreement, Pyongyang has given permission for the use of Internet landlines and cellular phones in the two largest inter-Korean cooperative projects. However, while the South Koreans pushed for the inclusion of “mobile phones” in the agreement, the North insisted on “wireless telephone communications”, suggesting that they hope to use dual-use wired telephones rather than mobile cellular phones.

In addition, under the agreement, North and South Korean rail and road traffic will be allowed to cross the border daily from 7:00am to 10pm, with the exception of Sundays and official holidays. Currently traffic in the area is limited to 7am~6pm in the summer, and 8am~5pm in the winter months.

The two sides also agreed to new procedures aimed at simplifying customs inspections and reducing delivery delays. From now on, the two sides will exchange lists of goods being moved, after which time any specific good that is flagged will be inspected. Currently, both sides are required to supply a list of goods to be pass through the area three days in advance, and every piece is individually inspected, complicating customs procedures.

The agreement was signed ROK Defense Minister Kim Jang-soo and Kim Il-chul, minister of the DPRK People’s Armed Forces, and went into effect on December 13. With this agreement, exchange and cooperation in the KIC and Kumgang Mountain resort are expected to even more actively grow.


North Korea Google Earth (Version 7)

Friday, December 14th, 2007

The most authoritative map of North Korea on Google Earth
North Korea Uncovered v.7
Download it here

koreaisland.JPGThis map covers North Korea’s agriculture, aviation, cultural locations, 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 sixth version.

Additions to the latest version of “North Korea Uncovered” include: A Korean War folder featuring overlays of US attacks on the Sui Ho Dam, Yalu Bridge, and Nakwon Munitians Plant (before/after), plus other locations such as the Hoeryong Revolutionary Site, Ponghwa Revolutionary Site, Taechon reactor (overlay), Pyongyang Railway Museum, Kwangmyong Salt Works, Woljong Temple, Sansong Revolutionary Site, Jongbansan Fort and park, Jangsan Cape, Yongbyon House of Culture, Chongsokjong, Lake Yonpung, Nortern Limit Line (NLL), Sinuiju Old Fort Walls, Pyongyang open air market, and confirmed Pyongyang Intranet nodes.

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.


North Korean Children Have to Learn Computers As Well

Friday, December 7th, 2007

Daily NK
Han Young Jin

In North Korea nowadays, individual-use PCs concentrated in Pyongyang and Chongjin, Shinuiju and other large-size cities have been gradually increasing. The trend has been rapidly increasing due to the propagation of computers by North Korean party organizations, the administrative committee office and middle schools.

The computerized citizen registration project by the North Korean village office was completed around the Local People’s Assembly representative elections last July.

A source from Shinuiju, North Pyungan said in a phone conversation with DailyNK on the 5th, “Provincial organizations and the village office are taking on computer-based projects. Large-city wealthy people are also acquiring computers left and right due to their children’s education.”

The new-rich class, who have made huge profits from recent trade with China, believe gradually that “The outer society cannot do anything without computers. Our children have to learn computers, too, to not get behind.”

A majority of computers provided to North Korea are Chinese and South Korean-made and have entered through official trade with North Korea, but a portion has been going through smuggling. South Korean computers, with the exception of Korean software, are permitted. North Korea uses North Korean word processors, such as “Dangun” and “Changduk.”

A portion of the upper-class use the new model computers smuggled from China, but a majority use secondhand Pentium IV-processor or below imported from China. In North Korea’s Shinuiju, a computer (Pentium II) which includes a used CTR monitor is 100~120 dollars and a computer which includes LCD monitor is 300 dollars. The offering price for a used laptop is around 300 dollars.

He said, “People cannot connect to the internet via computers, but can use most programs set up on computers. The resident registration computerization project has been completed and in Pyongyang, networks between libraries are in operation.”

North Korea is the single country in the world that is not connected to an internet cable network. North Korea, while being endowed with the national domain suffix, “kp”, does not operate a domain. People cannot use internet, but can use software programs set up on individual computers such as MS-Word, Excel, and Photoshop.

In North Korea, after 2000, the import of used and new computers from China, Japan, and South Korea through individuals and companies increased dramatically. Around 2001, around 2,000 Samsung, LG and TriGem Computer were provided to North Korea’s main colleges such as Kim Il Sung University and Kim Chaek University of Technology.

Mr. Kim said, “Chosun (North Korea) people prefer LCD monitors, not CTR monitors. Computers that have been coming in North Korea are mostly made in China and South Korean computers such as Samsung, LG, and TriGem Computer have been widely distributed as well.”

Electronic Publications Service using Domestic Network Possible

North Korea prohibits internet, so computer education mostly focused on program usage are taught in colleges and high schools. In schools for the gifted and college computer majors nationwide, a new generation of software developers is being nurtured.

Major organizations in the area of software development are Chosun (North Korea) Computer Center (KCC), Pyongyang Program Center, and the Academy of Sciences.

Since 2002, North Korea has created a network connecting the libraries of Grand People’s Study House, Kim Il Sung University, and Kim Chaek University of Technology. The network has been expanded throughout Pyongyang and the provinces. Currently, a few high officials in Pyongyang can use reportedly the Grand People’s Study House’s electronic publications service at home.


NK’s Country Domain ‘.KP’ Gets Nod

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2007

Korea Times
Jane Han

Its just a matter of time before North Korea meets the world through the World Wide Web, as its domain “.kp” has recently been delegated for use.

The domain .kp _ short for Korea, Democratic People’s Republic _ allocated to North Korea, but currently not in use, has been officially designated by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to be managed by the Pyongyang-based Korea Computer Center (KCC).

The international organization’s board voted unanimously in mid-September to accept KCC’s request to activate the domain.

Although an initial request was made in 2004, ICAAN declined permission due to the country’s lack of technology, management and governmental support.

The domain has been officially listed with the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), allowing Web sites to be managed like other country domains, such as .jp (Japan) and .kr (Korea, Republic of).

Experts predict that the opening of the web domain may serve as a gateway to link the reclusive nation to the global community.

However, North Korean officials have been quoted as saying, “The domain will be strictly managed under the guidance of the central government.”

The North Korean government operates a handful of official and unofficial Web sites on computer servers based in other nations. Most of them are used to promote the country to foreigners, but access from South Korea is blocked by the South’s authorities due to its decades-old laws on national security.


IT business delegation to visit DPRK

Thursday, August 16th, 2007

October 20-27, 2007 (Beijing/Pyongyang)
GPI Consulting

GPI Consulting (Netherlands) is one of the few western companies that has done an audit of the DPRK’s IT capabilitites and has published about them.

They are organizing an IT delegation to visit the DPRK this October.  Here is their marketing flyer and itinerary: NK-IT-tour.pdf

From the Marketing Flyer:

North Korea offers interesting business opportunities in several fields, such as software development, production of computer games, animation and cartoons, data entry en digitization. In order to provide detailed information about the IT opportunities in North Korea, a unique IT Study Tour will take place from 20 – 27 October 2007.

The trip to North Korea will focus on offshoring in the field of IT and BPO (Business Process Out-sourcing). We expect participants from IT- and software organizations that are investigating offshoring, or from consultants researching new offshore locations. Companies interested in exploring a new potential export market are also welcome to join the tour.

Europe still lacks sufficient knowledge about the promising North Korean IT sector. The goal of the business mission is to give the participants detailed information about offshoring, and especially about the opportunities in North Korea. We will strive to have participants from large, small and medium sized companies taking part in the IT study tour.

In order to make a business trip of 7 days attractive, the delegation will visit various companies in Pyongyang in the field of IT, animation, cartoons, computer games and BPO. The business mission will have an informal character with a visit to a university and also with attention to cultural and tourist elements. The participants of the tour will meet in China (Beijing); after returning from North Korea, an extension of the stay in China is possible.

The organizer of this mission is KCC (Korea Computer Center), a major IT services provider in North Korea with offices in several cities, including Pyongyang and Beijing. The European contact for this business mission will be Mr. Paul Tjia, founder and director of GPI Consultancy, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.  Established in 1995, GPI Consultancy is a specialized Dutch consultancy firm in the field of offshore sourcing. It is regularly involved in IT study tours to various offshore countries in Asia.


North Korea’s IT revolution

Tuesday, April 24th, 2007

Asia Times
Bertil Lintner

The state of North Korea’s information-technology (IT) industry has been a matter of conjecture ever since “Dear Leader” Kim Jong-il famously asked then-US secretary of state Madeleine Albright for her e-mail address during her visit to the country in October 2000.

The answer is that it is surprisingly sophisticated. North Korea may be one of the world’s least globalized countries, but it has long produced ballistic missiles and now even a nuclear arsenal, so it is actually hardly surprising that it also has developed advanced computer technology, and its own software.

Naturally, it lags far behind South Korea, the world’s most wired country, but a mini-IT revolution is taking place in North Korea. Some observers, such as Alexandre Mansourov, a specialist on North Korean security issues at the Honolulu-based Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies (APCSS), believes that in the long run it may “play a major role in reshaping macroeconomic policymaking and the microeconomic behavior of the North Korean officials and economic actors respectively”.

Sanctions imposed against North Korea after its nuclear test last October may have made it a bit more difficult for the country to obtain high-tech goods from abroad, but not impossible. Its string of front companies in Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand and Taiwan are still able to acquire what the country needs. It’s not all for military use, but as with everything else in North Korea, products from its IT industry have both civilian and non-civilian applications.

The main agency commanding North Korea’s IT strategy is the Korea Computer Center (KCC), which was set up in 1990 by Kim Jong-il himself at an estimated cost of US$530 million. Its first chief was the Dear Leader’s eldest son, Kim Jong-nam, who at that time also headed the State Security Agency, North Korea’s supreme security apparatus, which is now called the State Safety and Security Agency.

Functioning as a secret-police force, the agency is responsible for counterintelligence at home and abroad and, according to the American Federation of Scientists, “carries out duties to ensure the safety and maintenance of the system, such as search for and management of anti-system criminals, immigration control, activities for searching out spies and impure and antisocial elements, the collection of overseas information, and supervision over ideological tendencies of residents. It is charged with searching out anti-state criminals – a general category that includes those accused of anti-government and dissident activities, economic crimes, and slander of the political leadership. Camps for political prisoners are under its jurisdiction.”

In the 1980s, Kim Jong-nam studied at an international private school in Switzerland, where he learned computer science as well as several foreign languages, including English and French. Shortly after the formation of the KCC, South Korean intelligence sources assert, he moved the agency’s clandestine overseas information-gathering outfit to the center’s new building in Pyongyang’s Mangyongdae district. It was gutted by fire in 1997, but rebuilt with a budget of $1 billion, a considerable sum in North Korea. It included the latest facilities and equipment that could be obtained from abroad. According to its website, the KCC has 11 provincial centers and “branch offices, joint ventures and marketing offices in Germany, China, Syria, [the United] Arab Emirates and elsewhere”.

The KCC’s branch in Germany was established in 2003 by a German businessman, Jan Holtermann, and is in Berlin. At the same time, Holtermann set up an intranet service in Pyongyang and, according to Reporters Without Borders, “reportedly spent 700,000 euros [more than US$950,000] on it. To get around laws banning the transfer of sensitive technology to the Pyongyang regime, all data will be kept on servers based in Germany and sent by satellite to North Korean Internet users.” Nevertheless, it ended the need to dial Internet service providers in China to get out on the Web.

Holtermann also arranged for some of the KCC’s products to be shown for the first time in the West at the international IT exhibition CeBIT (Center of Office and Information Technology) last year in Hanover, Germany. The KCC’s branches in China are also active and maintain offices in the capital Beijing and Dalian in the northeast.

Another North Korean computer company, Silibank in Shenyang, in 2001 actually became North Korea’s first Internet service provider, offering an experimental e-mail relay service through gateways in China. In March 2004, the North Koreans established a software company, also in Shenyang, called the Korea 615 Editing Corp, which according to press releases at the time would “provide excellent software that satisfies the demand from Chinese consumers with competitive prices”.

Inside North Korea, however, access to e-mail and the Internet remains extremely limited. The main “intranet” service is provided by the Kwangmyong computer network, which includes a browser, an internal e-mail program, newsgroups and a search engine. Most of its users are government agencies, research institutes, educational organizations – while only people like Kim Jong-il, a known computer buff, have full Internet access.

But the country beams out its own propaganda over Internet sites such as, which in Korean, Chinese, Russian and Japanese carries the writings of Kim Jong-il and his father, “the Great Leader” Kim Il-sung, along with pictures of scenic Mount Paekdu near the Chinese border, the “cradle of the Korean revolution”, from where Kim Il-sung ostensibly led the resistance against the Japanese colonial power during World War II, and where Kim Jong-il was born, according to the official version of history. Most other sources would assert that the older Kim spent the war years in exile in a camp near the small village of Vyatskoye 70 kilometers north of Khabarovsk in the Russian Far East, where the younger Kim was actually born in 1942.

The official Korean Central New Agency also has its own website,, which is maintained by pro-Pyongyang ethnic Koreans in Japan, and carries daily news bulletins in Korean, English, Russian and Spanish, but with rather uninspiring headlines such as “Kim Jong-il sends message of greetings to Syrian president”, “Kim Jong-il’s work published in Mexico” and “Floral basket to DPRK [North Korea] Embassy [in Phnom Penh] from Cambodian Great King and Great Queen”.

On the more innocent side, the KCC produces software for writing with Korean characters a Korean version of Linux, games for personal computers and PlayStation – and an advanced computer adaptation of go, a kind of Asian chess game, which, according to the Dutch IT firm GPI Consultancy, “has won the world championship for go games for several years. The games department has a display showing all the trophies which were won during international competitions.”

Somewhat surprisingly, the North Koreans also produce some of the software for mobile phones made by the South Korean company Samsung, which began collaboration with the KCC in March 2000. North Korean computer experts have received training in China, Russia and India, and are considered, even by the South Koreans, as some of the best in the world.

More ominously, in October 2004, South Korea’s Defense Ministry reported to the country’s National Assembly that the North had trained “more than 500 computer hackers capable of launching cyber-warfare” against its enemies. “North Korea’s intelligence-warfare capability is estimated to have reached the level of advanced countries,” the report said, adding that the military hackers had been put through a five-year university course training them to penetrate the computer systems of South Korea, the United States and Japan.

According to US North Korea specialist Joseph Bermudez, “The Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces understands electronic warfare to consist of operations using electromagnetic spectrum to attack the enemy by jamming or spoofing. During the 1990s, the ministry identified electronic intelligence warfare as a new type of warfare, the essence of which is the disruption or destruction of the opponent’s computer networks – thereby paralyzing their military command and control system.”

Skeptical observers have noted that US firewalls should be able to prevent that from happening, and that North Korea still has a long way to go before it can seriously threaten the sophisticated computer networks of South Korea, Japan and the US.

It is also uncertain whether Kim Jong-nam still heads the KCC and the State Safety and Security Agency. In May 2001, he was detained at Tokyo’s airport at Narita for using what appeared to be a false passport from the Dominican Republic. He had arrived in the Japanese capital from Singapore with some North Korean children to visit Tokyo Disneyland – but instead found himself being deported to China. Since then, he has spent most of his time in the former Portuguese enclave of Macau, where he has been seen in the city’s casinos and massage parlors. This February, the Japanese and Hong Kong media published pictures of him in Macau, and details of his lavish lifestyle there – which prompted him to leave for mainland China, where he is now believed to be living.

Whatever Kim Jong-nam’s present status may be in the North Korean hierarchy, the KCC is more active than ever, and so is another software developer, the Pyongyang Informatics Center, which, at least until recently, had a branch in Singapore. Other links in the region include Taiwan’s Jiage Limited Corporation, which has entered a joint-venture operation with the KCC under the rather curious name Chosun Daedong River Electronic Calculator Joint Operation Companies, which, according to South Korea’s trade agency, KOTRA, produces computers and circuit boards.

The US Trading with the Enemy Act and restrictions under the international Wassenaar Arrangement, which controls the trade in dual-use goods and technologies (military and civilian), may prohibit the transfer of advanced technology to North Korea, but with easy ways around these restrictions, sanctions seem to have had little or no effect.

North Korea’s IT development seems unstoppable, and the APCSS’s Mansourov argues that it can “both strengthen and undermine political propaganda and ideological education, as well as totalitarian surveillance and control systems imposed by the absolutist and monarchic security-paranoid state on its people, especially at the time of growing conflict between an emerging entrepreneurial politico-corporate elites and the old military-industrial elite”.

So will the IT revolution, as he puts it, “liquefy or solidify the ground underneath Kim Jong-il’s regime? Will the IT revolution be the beginning of the end of North Korea, at least as we know it today?” Most probably, it will eventually break North Korea’s isolation, even if the country’s powerful military also benefits from improved technologies. And there may be a day when the KCNA will have something more exciting to report about than “A furnace-firing ceremony held at the Taean Friendship Glass Factory”.

Bertil Lintner is a former correspondent with the Far Eastern Economic Review and is currently a writer with Asia-Pacific Media Services.


North Korea’s Economic Development and External Relations

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2005

Korea Economic Institute
Oh-Seung Yeul

February 2005

Download in PDF: Oh.pdf

Trade, reform, inter-Korean cooperation, China, IT, aid.

Check it out.