Archive for the ‘Library’ Category

Kim Jong Il’s Yacht, UNESCO, Golf, and the Taean Glass Factory

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

Now available on Google Earth! 
(click above to download to your own Google Earth)

North Korea Uncovered v.3

Google Earth added a high-resolution overlay of the area between Pyongyang and Nampo.  In it, most of the Koguryo tombs listed with UNESCO are now distinguishable.  In addition, viewers can see the latest Kim Jong Il palace (including a yacht), the DPRK’s premier golf course, and the Chinese-built Taean Glass factory.  I have also made some progress in mapping out the DPRK electricity grid.

This is the most authoritative map of North Korea that exists publicly today.  Agriculture, aviation, cultural institutions, manufacturing, railroad, energy, politics, sports, military, religion, leisure, national parks…they are all here, and will captivate anyone interested in North Korea for hours.

Naturally, 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. 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 on the more “controversial” locations. In time, I hope to expand this further by adding canal and road networks.

I hope this post will launch a new interest in North Korea. There is still plenty more to learn, and I look forward to hearing about improvements that can be made.


Experts Differ Over N.Korea’s Economic Openness

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2007


A lawmaker of the pro-government Uri Party has said the North Korean economy has taken a step toward economic openness.

But North Korea watchers still remained suspicious as to whether the Pyongyang regime has the genuine determination to carry out market-oriented economic reform.

“I got the strong impression that the North is striving toward economic reform during my visit to Pyongyang,” said Rep. Choi Sung of the Uri Party in a telephone interview with The Korea Times Monday.

Choi visited the North from May 14 to 18 with 130 South Korean business leaders to participate in fairs to attract external investment.

The Stalinist country is unlikely to follow in the footsteps the former Soviet Union took in the post-Cold War era, and therefore, its growth model will take a different form, Choi said.

“The North is seeking a tailored growth model by introducing an incentive-based system while maintaining its communist regime,” said the lawmaker who has visited the North 20 times.

He said the library of one of the elite universities in the North displayed a wide array of information technology related publications, and citizens were anxious to learn English.

“Clerks working at shops selling souvenirs looked very business-oriented and tried to sell as many products as possible to their customers,” he said.

Asked if he had a chance to talk to any North Korean officials if they share his view, Rep. Choi said he had not.

He said it was very evident the North was moving toward economic openness.

His view, however, is at odds with what most North Korea watchers have expressed through media reports.

The Yonhap News Agency reported on May 18 that former North Korean Prime Minister Pak Pong-ju was removed and made manager of a chemical complex because his capitalism-oriented stance fueled objections from senior North Korea officials.

Pak was named manger of the synthetic fiber complex in South Pyongan Province, the report said.

Citing unidentified sources, the report said the former premier had called on the North to introduce an incentive-based system into its economy.

The conservative Chosun Ilbo newspaper supported the observation in an article published on May 19, saying that key officials calling for introducing an incentive-based system in the North have been demoted since the 1990s.


S.Koreans Join Ceremony For Digital Library Opening In Pyongyang

Thursday, March 29th, 2007


A group of 143 South Koreans made a four-day visit to North Korea starting from March 22 to celebrate the opening of a North Korean digital library built with South Korean technology, a local foundation that has a leading role in the project said.

During their stay in Pyongyang, Rep. Im Jong-seok of the ruling Uri Party and other delegates attended the opening ceremony of the digital library at the North’s top school, Kimilsung University, on March 23 and toured the city’s landmarks.

The library’s computer network was built with aid from South Korea’s Hanyang University, the Kim Dae-jung Presidential Library and the Korean Foundation for South-North Economic and Cultural Cooperation, a private foundation for the promotion of such inter-Korean cooperation.

Kimilsung University is the first North Korean school to introduce the South’s advanced digital library system.

Jo Chol, vice president of the North’s university, said he hopes to see an exchange of teaching staff between the universities of the two Koreas, saying the exchange in academic fields will promote the improvement of inter-Korean relations.


Weird but Wired

Thursday, February 1st, 2007

the Economist

Online dating in Pyongyang? Surely not

KIM JONG IL, North Korea’s dictator, has interests in modern technology beyond his dabbling in nuclear weaponry. In 2000 he famously asked Madeleine Albright, then America’s secretary of state, for her e-mail address. Mr Kim believes there are three kinds of fool in the 21st century: smokers, the tone-deaf and the computer-illiterate.

One of his young compatriots is certainly no fool. “Officially, our computers are mainly for educational and scientific purposes,” he says, before claiming: “Chatting on our web, I also met my girlfriend.”

Internet dating is only one of the surprises about the internet in North Korea, a country almost as cut off from the virtual world as it is from the real one. At one of the rare free markets open to foreigners, brand-new computers from China are sold to the local nouveaux riches complete with Windows software. Elsewhere, second-hand ones are available far more cheaply. In most schools, computer courses are now compulsory.

In the heart of the capital, Pyongyang, visitors are supposed to be able to surf freely through the 30m official texts stored at the Grand People’s Study House, the local version of the Library of Congress. The country’s first cyber café opened in 2002 and was soon followed by others, even in the countryside. Some are packed with children playing computer games.

But the world wide web is still largely absent. Web pages of the official news agency, KCNA, said to be produced by the agency’s bureau in Japan, divulge little more than the daily “on the spot guidance” bestowed by Kim Jong Il. No one in Pyongyang has forgotten that glasnost and perestroika—openness and transparency—killed the Soviet Union.

The local ideology being juche, or self-reliance, the country installed a fibre-optic cable network for domestic use, and launched a nationwide intranet in 2000. Known as Kwangmyong (“bright”), it has a browser, an e-mail programme, news groups and a search engine. Only a few thousand people are allowed direct access to the internet. The rest are “protected” (ie, sealed off) by a local version of China’s “great firewall”, controlled by the Korean Computer Centre. As a CIA report puts it, this system limits “the risks of foreign defection or ideological infection”. On the other hand, North Koreans with access to the outer world are supposed to plunder the web to feed Kwangmyong—a clever way to disseminate technical information to research institutes, factories and schools without losing control.

Yet even today, more and more business cards in Pyongyang carry e-mail addresses, albeit usually collective ones. A west European businessman says he is astonished by the speed with which his North Korean counterparts respond to his e-mails, leading him to wonder if teams of people are using the same name. This is, however, North Korea, and sometimes weeks go by in virtual silence.

In some places, North Korea’s internet economy seems to be overheating. Near the northern border, Chinese cell phones—and the prepaid phone cards needed to use them—are a hot black-market item, despite government efforts to ban them. The new web-enabled phones might soon give free access to the Chinese web which, for all its no-go areas, is a paradise of liberty compared with Kwangmyong. In this region, known for its casinos, online gambling sites are said to be increasingly active.

Last summer the police were reported to have cracked down on several illegal internet cafés which offered something more daring than the average chatting and dating. Despite the signs that North Korea’s web culture is ready to take off, internet-juche remains a reassuring form of control in the hermit regime.