Archive for the ‘Computing/IT’ Category

Ruediger Frank on the DPRK economy

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

Ruediger Frank writes in the East Asia Forum:

After decades of being divided into a population of a small and mostly invisible elite and everyone else, a middle class of about 2 million people is on the rise. These are the people who have mobile phones, use taxis and show a remarkable diversity in clothing and accessories. The local 7-inch tablet computer, ‘Samjiyŏn’, sells for US$180 and comes with the Android operating system and a number of apps such as a dictionary, changgi (Korean chess), and a collection of the works of the two deceased former leaders, Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il.

The quality of life in the capital differs significantly from the rest of the country. Some observers believe this will increase discontent; but it also smartly diverts attention away from the shiny examples of foreign metropolises spread on pirated DVDs and USB sticks, and offers the population a domestic Xanadu. The key question for social stability is thus not what peasants in the countryside dream about, but what middle-class Pyongyangites aspire to. Meanwhile, the number of solar panels and small windmills is rising, which is the countryside’s solution to having less privileged access to power.

Despite all the changes, many of the old problems remain unsolved. Prices rise, speculation is rampant and frustration grows in sync with corruption and an ever-more obvious gap between the poor and the new middle class. It would be unrealistic to imply that Kim Jong-un even theoretically had the chance to improve the lives of the majority of his people significantly within a year of taking over. But he has not been idle. Inequality in North Korea is a sign of deepening change. A growing income and welfare gap between individuals indicates that the economy is on the move away from socialist egalitarianism towards capitalist diversity.

Read the full report here:
North Korea’s rolling economic reforms
Ruediger Frank
East Asia Forum
2013-9-24

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Intel seeks trademark protection in DPRK

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

According to Yonhap:

North Korea is apparently no exception for efforts by U.S. firms to take every pre-emptive measure to protect their intellectual property rights worldwide.

American tech giant Intel Corp. is trying to lay the legal groundwork for possible business in the communist nation some day.

Intel confirmed Tuesday it has submitted an application for a “Specific License” in North Korea to the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). The company delivered the request through its law firm, Novak Druce Quigg LLP, in August 2012.

But Intel made clear that it has no plans yet to do business in North Korea, subject to tough U.N. sanctions for its nuclear and long-range missile programs. In 2011, President Barack Obama issued an executive order prohibiting U.S. firms from doing business there.

“Intel has no intent of doing business in North Korea,” Chuck Mulloy, a corporate spokesman, told Yonhap News Agency by phone. “It is (just) about IT protection.”

The company routinely files protection papers of its trademark worldwide, regardless of whether it does business in a certain nation, he added.

The U.S. Treasury refused to discuss a specific firm’s move.

“On background, please note that we will not comment on specific companies but we do have a favorable licensing policy for protecting intellectual property,” a Treasury official said.

Read the full story here:
Intel seeking trademark protection in N. Korea
Yonhap
2013-8-6

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DPRK publicizes nanotech sector

Friday, August 2nd, 2013

According to Yonhap:

North Korea is moving to grow its nanotech industry and produce high-tech products, Pyongyang’s state media reported Friday.

The Rodong Sinmun newspaper, an organ of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), said in an article that the country’s nanotech center that was recently built has made advances in medicine, energy, environmental conservation, light industry and farming.

Nanotechnology involves controlling matter on a molecular scale, leading to the creation of materials of high commercial value and with wide-ranging benefits.

The newspaper monitored in Seoul said the nanotech center, built under the guidance of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, has played a key part in developing the sector. It added that roughly 1,000 nano products and prototypes were on display at the 10th nano science exhibition that opened on Tuesday.

North Korean media started mentioning the nanotech center in April, although no detail was made public on when it was established.

It said the country’s technicians from universities and laboratories have been able to develop agricultural sterilizers, growth accelerators, air cleaners and shoes.

The daily also said the total number of products showcased at the exhibit represents a 10-fold increase from just four years ago, highlighting the progress made by the country in the next-generation technology.

The latest news article follows another report by the North’s Korean Central News Agency that claimed in May that many practical products to cope with athlete’s foot have reached consumers in the communist country.

In June, the Choson Sinbo, a Japan-based pro-Pyongyang newspaper, said an alcoholic beverage made using nano technology enjoyed popularity in Pyongyang.

Related to the media reports, Lim Eul-chul, a research professor at Kyungnam University and North Korea expert, said emphasis on high-tech industries has become more pronounced since Kim’s ascension to power in late 2011.

He speculated that the leader may be pushing for technological advances to bolster economic growth and stimulate positive social change.

Here is a report from KCNA (2013-8-5):

Nano-technology Exhibition Held in DPRK

Pyongyang, August 5 (KCNA) — The 10th national sci-tech presentation and show in the field of nano-technology took place here from July 30 to August 2.

Attending the presentation and show were more than 20 units, including the State Academy of Sciences. 130 odd scientific papers were presented and at least 1 000 pieces of products in 260 kinds, among them nano-science and technology books, exhibited in the form of object, model and chart.

The products included nano germicide, nano photosynthetic accelerant and nano microelement compound invented by the Agricultural Nano Technology Institute under the Academy of Agricultural Science, which have been applied to hundreds of thousands of hectares of farmlands in several years to prove effective.

Nano combined antibacterial agent, nano water-purifying agent and functional nano toothbrush, produced by the Okryu Foodstuff-processing Company under the General Bureau of Public Service, drew the attention of visitors. There were also such nano health drinks, made with natural surface active agent, as nano gold and silver spring waters and nano gold and silver liquors.

Nano gold liquor helps preserve health and treat different diseases.

Nano garments, presented by the Myonghung High-tech Materials Company, have functions of antibiosis, destruction of organic matter and prevention of ultraviolet rays.

The Taedonggang Technology Company displayed carbon nano pipe and chart showing its production process.

Pyongyang Medical College of Kim Il Sung University presented nano platinum injection, nano compound plastic denture material and Saengdangssuk injection.

Besides, scientific institutes and educational establishments presented atomic force microscope, X-ray diffraction analyzer, scanning tunneling microscope and other products used in the field of nano measurement.

Achievements and experiences, gained in the field of nano technology were exchanged at the presentation and show.

And from IFES:

North Korea established nano technology center
Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2013-8-8

North Korea’s interest in nanotechnology, the state-of-the-art science in the 21st century, is rapidly increasing.

Rodong Sinmun,the official newspaper of the Workers’ Party released an article titled “The Bright Future of the Nanotechnology,” on August 1. The Tenth Annual Nanotechnology Science and Technology Conference and Exhibition opened on July 30 and the venue of this event, National Nanotechnology Center was described in detail in the article.

The newspaper elaborated, “The National Nanotechnology Center was built under the guidance of our leader Kim Jong Un and he guided us to widely announced our achievements and experiences in this field.”

National Nanotechnology Center appeared on North Korean media occasionally from this April this year. The center is likely to have been constructed under the guidance of Kim Jong Un for the development and commercialization of nanotechnology.

Rodong Sinmunreported that nanotechnology is making great progress in the environmental, medicine, energy, agricultural and light industries and introduced nano-products such as agricultural fungicides, nano biological growth promoters, and nano-indoor air purifiers. This event displayed over 1,000 nano technology products from 20 nanotechnology research centers including Kim Il Sung University, Kim Hyong Jik University of Education, Kim Chaek University of Technology and National Academy of Sciences.

Compared to 100 nanotechnology products displayed at the exhibition in 2009, the number has increased ten-fold in just four years. This clearly demonstrates North Korea’s growing fervor and investment in nanotechnology in recent years.

Similar articles about nanotechnology can be found in Choson Sinbo, a Japan-based pro-North Korean newspaper.

Choson Sinboreleased an article on June 22 that gold tassels made with nanotechnology are popular amongst shops and restaurants in Pyongyang. On May 22, the Korean Central News Agency also introduced “nano straw shoes” made with nanosilver and nano titanium that eliminate foot odor and treat athlete’s foot.

Similarly in May 3, Rodong Sinmun announced that nano-antiseptic and germ solutions were invented by scientists and technicians at the National Nanotechnology Center.

The promotion of nanotechnology is not new for North Korea. During Kim Jong Il’s era, the Second Five-Year Plan for development of science and technology (2003-2007) focused on the nano-technology as the main project, and Nano Science and Technology Conference were held annually from 2003. North Korea has been showing unrelenting investment in nanotechnology from the 2000s.

This year marks the second year of Kim Jong Un’s rule and nanotechnology is given continued attention. Kim Jong Un’s proclivity towards nanotechnology is relevant in its goal of achieving economic development through state-of-the-art science and technology. Recently it launched new slogans such as “The Industrial Revolution of the New Century,” and “building an powerhouse of knowledge economy.” Despite the international sanctions it is faced with, North Korea’s plausible option to catch up to the ‘global trend’ will be through science and technology sector.

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DPRK to import 500,000 smartphones from China this year

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

According to Yonhap (via Global Post):

North Korea plans to import about 100,000 smartphones from China this year, a report said Tuesday.

China is planning to export a total of 500,000 mobile phones to the North and 100,000 of them will be smartphones, the Washington-based Radio Free Asia report said, referring to a Chinese government official’s posting on Weibo, a Chinese microblogging website.

Chinese smartphones sell for about 1,000 Chinese yuan (US$163.27) per unit in China, but the price tag comes to 2,800 yuan per unit in North Korea, the report said, adding profits from the price difference will go into the pocket of the North Korean regime.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea to import 100,000 smartphones from China this year
Yonhap (via Global Post)
2013-6-18

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North Korea promoting extensively for the international product exhibition

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2013-5-30

North Korea currently under robust international sanctions has put on extensive advertising campaign for the recent International Product Exhibition [Spring International Trade Fair] held in Pyongyang.

A week has passed since the 16th Pyongyang International Spring Product Exhibition (May 13-16), but the Choson Sinbo, the bulletin of the Japan-based Chosen Soren, continues to run daily articles on the products displayed in the exhibition.

The products displayed at the Pyongyang International Spring Product Exhibition, which is North Korea’s largest trade exhibition, provided a peak at the country’s current industrial trends. Moreover, this year’s exhibition introduced a number of products which are used in the daily lives of North Koreans.

The (North) Korean United Trading Company exhibited over fifty categories of products including colored metal products and a variety of lubricants and ball bearings. Groups including the Sungri Economic Trade Alliance, the State of the Art Technology Development and Exchange Center, the (North) Korean Hard Glass Company, the Pyongjin Bicycle Joint Venture Company, etc. entered products which contribute to improving the lives of North Koreans. The Chosun Sinbo introduced various new products displayed at the exhibition, including shoes was introduced which treats athlete’s foot and dissipates odors with substances such as nano silver as well as complex lactic acid products and other pharmaceutical products made at the Pyongchon Koryo Pharmaceutical Factory.

North Korea also focused on advertisement for automobiles and electronics. Pyonghwa Motors introduced over 30 new models at the exhibition, with the increase in demand. It also boasted that the new models were equipped with lower fuel consumption, reduced by two-thirds.

North Korean media also praised computer products introduced by the (North) Korean Computer Center for its rise in popularity and international competitiveness. The Ryongak Computation Information and Technology Exchange Center introduced a new tablet PC which it dubbed the ‘Yongheung.’ It was reported that buyers welcomed the site for portable profile projectors which had TVs for viewing and allowed for comfortable exhibition of mass media materials.

To overcome the current international sanctions imposed on North Korea, the exhibition is likely to be intended to increase its economic cooperation with the outside world. On May 22, the Chosun Sinbo reported that despite the United States-led economic sanctions on North Korea, many foreign enterprises participated in the exhibition in the hopes of expanding trade with North Korea. It highlighted that the Rason Comet Trade Corporation which is located in China and North Korea’s joint Rason Special Economic District, participated this year for the first time in the Pyongyang International Spring Merchandise Exhibition. The article explained that the Rason Comet Trade Corporation is exporting clothing including t-shirts and athletic wear to Indonesia, Thailand, China, etc. Pyonghwa Motors which exhibited 36 varieties of cars, passenger vans, and buses at the outdoor exhibition center, benefited from meetings with several foreign companies as well as North Korean trade and economic agencies.

The 16th annual Pyongyang Spring Product Exhibition was held from the 13th to 16th of this month and companies from North Korea, Germany, Malaysia, Mongolia, Switzerland, Singapore, Australia, Italia, Indonesia, China, Poland, and Taiwan participated at the event with various products including machineries, electronics, light industry, foods, medical, and chemicals.

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Chrome blocking Naenara

Monday, March 25th, 2013

Naenara-malware-screenshot

Above: What I see when I try to log onto Naenara.kp

For several days now, Google Chrome has blocked access to the DPRK’s Naenara portal because it contains malware.

Here is the information that Chrome provides about the site:

What is the current listing status for naenara.com.kp?
Site is listed as suspicious – visiting this web site may harm your computer.

Part of this site was listed for suspicious activity 2 time(s) over the past 90 days.

What happened when Google visited this site?
Of the 5628 pages we tested on the site over the past 90 days, 18 page(s) resulted in malicious software being downloaded and installed without user consent. The last time Google visited this site was on 2013-03-19, and the last time suspicious content was found on this site was on 2013-03-15.
Malicious software includes 143 exploit(s), 9 trojan(s). Successful infection resulted in an average of 16 new process(es) on the target machine.

Malicious software is hosted on 3 domain(s), including zief.pl/, ecpage.sakura.ne.jp/, chura.pl/.

This site was hosted on 1 network(s) including AS131279 (STAR).

Has this site acted as an intermediary resulting in further distribution of malware?
Over the past 90 days, naenara.com.kp did not appear to function as an intermediary for the infection of any sites.

Has this site hosted malware?
No, this site has not hosted malicious software over the past 90 days.

How did this happen?
In some cases, third parties can add malicious code to legitimate sites, which would cause us to show the warning message.

Other sites on the .kp domain appear to be functioning normally.

Are there any brave souls with a spare computer that want to investigate this?

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Cyber attacks…

Friday, March 15th, 2013

Some of the DPRK’s web pages went down for a couple of days. According to North Korea Tech:

North Korea’s state-run news agency accused the U.S. and its allies of being behind a series of cyberattacks that have forced its web sites offline for much of the last two days.

The report represents the first recognition by North Korean state media of the cyberattacks.

The handful of web sites based in the country became difficult or impossible to connect to two days ago with no explanation. North Korean web sites routinely go offline for periods of a few hours or up to a day, but this was the first time that all of the country’s web sites went offline at the same time.

Here is what KCNA had to say:

KCNA Blasts US and Its Allies’ Cyber Attacks

Pyongyang, March 15 (KCNA) — There are very disturbing developments against the backdrop of the ever mounting moves of the U.S. and its allies to stifle the DPRK.

Intensive and persistent virus attacks are being made every day on internet servers operated by the DPRK. These cannot be construed otherwise than despicable and base acts of the hostile forces consternated by the toughest measures taken by the DPRK after launching an all-out action.

What should not be overlooked is that such cyber attack is timed to coincide with the madcap Key Resolve joint military exercises being staged by the U.S. and other hostile forces.

It is nobody’s secret that the U.S. and south Korean puppet regime are massively bolstering up cyber forces in a bid to intensify the subversive activities and sabotages against the DPRK.

The DPRK will never remain a passive onlooker to the enemies’ cyber attacks that have reached a very grave phase as part of their moves to stifle it.

It is ridiculous, indeed, for the hostile forces to mount such virus attacks on the DPRK’s internet servers, much upset by the all-out action of its army and people to defend the sovereignty of the country and the nation.

They are seriously mistaken if they think they can quell the DPRK’s voices of justice through such base acts.
The U.S. and its allies should be held wholly accountable for the ensuing consequences.

Just what kind of cyber attack was launched? Renesys offers some data (via North Korea Tech):

We observed disruptions in North Korean Internet connectivity beginning at 00:59:30 UTC on 13 March 2013. At this time, North Korea’s four networks were very briefly removed from the global routing table (chart lower left). When the routes were restored, one of the four networks was routed over Intelsat, while the other three were routed over China Unicom. After a few hours, all networks were once again routed over China Unicom. For about two hours starting at 22:40 UTC on 13 March, all four networks disappeared for a second time from the global routing table. Later on 14 March, we saw Intelsat again appear as a provider for one of the networks for several hours.

Despite such routing instabilities, North Korean networks were generally available in the global routing table. However, when we look at our active measurements (i.e., traceroutes) into North Korea during this time, we see a significant drop-off in successful responses, suggesting a loss of connectivity not visible in routing data alone (chart lower right).

See the Renesys web page for charts.

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Increase in cyber lectures in North Korea

Friday, February 15th, 2013

Institite for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2013-2-15

Since Kim Jong Un took power, North Korea has been keen on the information and technology (IT) sector and recently expanded the number of cyber lectures through domestic computer network (intranet).

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported in an article titled “Expanding Distant Learning” (February 6) that “Distance Education College of Kim Chaek University of Technology (Cyber University) is making a great progress and added five departments and are running more than 20 cyber courses from this year.”

North Korea’s concept on the distant learning university is defined as a form of education that allows students that live far away from colleges to attend lectures through information network system.

The College of Distance Education University is affiliated with the Kim Chaek University of Technology and was established in January 2006 when Kim Jong Il was inspecting the newly constructed electronic library of Kim Chaek University. His instructions were “to provide distance education for students in the distant provinces interested in information and communication to obtain education without coming to a university.”

KCNA reported that what began as the Distant Learning Center was reorganized into the Distant Learning College from March 2010. It also said that “Distant Learning College students are attending classes at Chollima Steel Complex, Hukryong Coal Mine and other units of production nationwide.”

The Dean of the Cyber College, Kim Il-nam stated, “Distance Education College fosters workers to become excellent technician through combining theory and practice, and reeducate experienced technicians to enhance the technological capabilities of the plants.” He commended the college as an “excellent institution that tailors to the current needs and demonstrate strong livelihoods.”

The Dean further added, “Recently, the college has adopted new national standards and authored reference books after collecting over 150 national scientific and technological achievement registrations, patents, software copyrights and program registrations.” He also mentioned that there were many highly acclaimed degree holders.

Other North Korean media reported that “Distant learning lectures will contribute to the production growth,” and spoke of cyber lectures held in Pyongyang textile factory and students learning via computers.

For North Korea, the education system had been established for field workers at communication, factory, and television colleges, as well as night college. The recently expanding cyber lectures are a similar education system to support the workers in their fields. As North Korea is establishing IT related infrastructure and developing software industry, the cyber lecture system is continuing to expand.

Besides Kim Chaek University of Technology, other major universities as well as the Grand People’s Study House and the National Library are providing cyber lectures for field workers.

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Foreigners now allowed mobile phones in the DPRK

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

UPDATE 1 (2013-1-28): The Koryo Tours Facebook Page has an image of the KoryoLink poster at Sunan Airport:

Koryo-link-for-foreigners

ORIGINAL POST (2013-1-22): According to NK News:

According to Richie Fenner, a tour manager at China based Young Pioneer Tours who reported the news today, explained that GPS enabled devices are allowed in the country. He told us:

“When we were coming in on the train, they asked us to show us our phones. The customs official asked if the first one he looked at had GPS, which it didn’t, so he handed it back. But then with the iPhones and other modern phones when we told them they had GPS, he just handed them back and gestured that we just put them in our bag.”

Thinking that the phones might just be sealed upon the group’s arrival to Pyongyang, Fenner explained that to his surprise the local guides explained a new policy meant that foreigners can now keep their cell phones in their possession. But that didn’t mean they could be used. Fenner explained, “Wthout a North Korean sim card, the phones are useless. I asked if we could get North Korean SIM cards and our guide said that it might be possible in the future”.

American tourist Sato Shi who joined the tour group by plane (U.S. citizens may not take the train) confirmed that the policy has been applied to the airport, too. “When we went to the customs they were checking our bags, saw my cellphone and then just gave it back to me and said “Hey, just keep it with you”.

Smartphones such as the Apple iPhone and Samsung Galaxy are a rare commodity in North Korea. Fenner explained that his North Korean colleagues were very interested in trying them and playing games throughout the tour. “It’s all very new for them, I don’t think they’ve seen iPhones and Smartphones before”.

Given the lack of SIM cards and network access, the Young Pioneer tour group explained they could only really use their phones to take photos, play games, and use as an alarm. Young Pioneers today explained on their website that the news shows North Korea’s intent to “make tourism easier and a larger part of the economy”.

Xinhua reports some additional details:

“Just fill a registration form at the Customs with your phone’ s IMEI number, you can bring your own phones to DPRK,” said a unnamed Egyptian technician.

“If you want to make international calls, the WCDMA 3G mobile phone owners can purchase our Koryolink SIM card, which costs 50 euro,” the technician said.

For decades before, foreigners visiting the DPRK must leave their cellphones at the Customs and can pick them up on departure.

“We have tried hard to negotiate with the Korean security side, and got the approval recently,” said the Egyptian, noting that “it has nothing to do with the Google trip.”

In fact, foreigners still can not really use the Koryolink 3G network, with no internet access allowed yet. The Koryolink staff said that the mobile internet service for foreigners will be opened soon. “It is not a technical problem, we just wait for the DPRK authority’ s approval.”

There are 1.8 million Koreans using 3G cellphones across the country since 2008, which supports MMS and video call. But their mobile phones can neither make international calls nor connect to the Internet. Furthermore, Koreans and Foreigners can not make calls between each other due to their SIM cards set by different segments.

Kyodo offers video of people purchasing the KoryoLink SIM cards:

NK News reports the new price structure:

1. Purchase: These cards will be valid indefinitely and can be used for repeat visits. The cost for these will be 50 euro with a nominal amount of prepaid call money included.

2. Two Week SIM Card “rental”: Costing 50 euros, these cards can be used for two weeks before becoming invalid. They include 30 euro of prepaid service.

3. One month rentals: These cost 75 euro and include 55 euro of prepaid service.

Call rates:

– China and South East Asia- 1.43 Euro a minute

– Russia- 0.68 Euro a minute

– France and Switzerland- 0.38 Euro a minute

– UK and Germany- 1.58 Euro a minute

Other rates including the U.S have yet to be confirmed

UPDATE: A friend sent in a picture of the rates (2014). the rates do not appear to have changed:

Koryolink-intl-rates-2014

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Google Earth and the DPRK: Pyongyang Mosque, Kobangsan, and new hospital

Sunday, January 20th, 2013

Pyongyang has a mosque:

Pyongyang-mosque

Pyongyang-mosyue-google-earth

Top: A reader allowed me to post this image (thank you) of a mosque in Pyongyang. Bottom: The Google Earth image of the mosque.

The mosque is located inside the Iranian embassy compound.  This would make it a Shia mosque.  There is not a mosque at either the Egyptian embassy or the Pakistani embassy. I am unsure of the location of the Libyan embassy (do any readers know?) or whether it has a mosque. In the meantime, the DPRK might be the only country with a Shia mosque but not a Sunni mosque.

If the embassy staff are good Muslims, they should allow you to enter the compound to visit the mosque. Just be sure to bring modest clothes, and women, please cover your heads.

UPDATE 2015: Jakaparker has posted images of the interior of the mosque to his instagram account. You can see them here, here, here, here, and here.

Dear Sophie Schmidt:

I just read your web page on travel in the DPRK. I thought I would help you out a bit. Here is the picture you posted of your guesthouse:

Kobansan-guesthouse

This is the Kobangsan (고방산) Guest House and it is located in the eastern suburbs of Pyongyang. Here is a Google Earth satellite image of the place:

Kobansan-google-earth

Here are the Google Earth coordinates:  39.054577°, 125.879205°

Also, you should check out this digital atlas I published of the DPRK. The data is better than Google’s. 🙂

Taesongsan General Hospital

taesongsan-hospital

This weekend KCNA/KCTV reported on Kim Jong-un’s visit to the newly built Taesongsan General Hospital (대성산종합병원). Pictured above is the Google Earth satellite image of the place. Google Earth coordinates:  39.109678°, 125.911093°. NK Leadership Watch has more information on the Hospital.

Here is the video that appeared on KCTV:

Learn more about the visit here.

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