Internet access is available but strictly limited in North Korea; it is only permitted with special authorization and primarily used for government purposes and by foreigners. The country has some broadband infrastructure, including fiber optic links between major institutions. However, online services for most individuals and institutions are provided through a free domestic-only network known as Kwangmyong, with access to the global Internet limited to a much smaller group.
Connection to the internet in North Korea is done via Naenara, a modified version of Firefox that can access approximately 1,000 to 5,500 websites in the internet. It runs on Red Star OS, a North Korean Linux distribution.
Service providers and access
Internet access in North Korea is available from Internet service provider Star Joint Venture Co., a joint venture between the North Korean government's Post and Telecommunications Corporation and Thailand-based Loxley Pacific. Star JV took control of North Korea's Internet address allocation on 21 December 2009. Prior to Star JV, Internet access was available only via a satellite link to Germany, or for some government uses through direct connections with China Unicom. Nearly all of North Korea's Internet traffic is routed through China.
Permission to access the Internet remains tightly restricted. However, the IT industry has been growing and Internet access is gradually increasing within North Korea. In October 2010, the website of the Korean Central News Agency went live from a web server hosted in North Korea. It is accessible globally on a North Korean IP address, marking the country's first known direct connection to the Internet. Around the same time, on 9 October, journalists visiting Pyongyang for the Workers' Party's 65th anniversary celebrations were given access to a press room with Internet connectivity. As of December 2014[update], 1,024 IP addresses are known to exist in North Korea, although The New York Times journalists David E. Sanger and Nicole Perlroth believe that the actual number may be higher. The total amount of Internet users is estimated at no more than a few thousand. People who can access the Internet without limits are claimed to be high-ranking officials, members of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and government ambassadors. Kim Jong-il was said to have loved "surfing the net". According to Ofer Gayer, a security researcher of Incapsula, the country's total web traffic footprint has been less than that of the Falkland Islands. According to Joo Seong-ha, a The Dong-a Ilbo journalist and a North Korean defector, as of 2014, the government's intranet Kwangmyong has been used to limit the general public's global Internet usage, especially in hotels. Although available in most campuses, the government has "strictly monitored the Internet usage". Many citizens of North Korea may be unaware of the existence of the Internet.
Since Apple Inc., Sony, and Microsoft are not allowed to distribute their products to North Korea, third-party companies have bought their products and been selling them to customers. Very little is known about the electronics industry in North Korea due to the government's isolation policies.
On 19 September 2016, North Korea's nameserver that contains information about all of the ".kp" websites was misconfigured, allowing researchers to access and publish the domain names and some of the file data about the site, including zone information for .kp, co.kp, com.kp, edu.kp, gov.kp, net.kp, org.kp, and rep.kp, revealing that North Korea has only 28 websites facing the Internet.
In September 2017, Russian telecommunication company TransTeleCom has established direct internet connection to North Korea. Chinese Unicom is no longer sole provider of internet access for North Korea.
Government use of the Internet
As of 2018, construction of an Internet Communication Bureau headquarters is underway in Pyongyang.
North Korean websites
There are about 30 websites, such as Uriminzokkiri, run by the DPRK government.[needs update?] South Korean police have identified 43 pro-North Korean websites that have foreign-based servers. The police report that these websites encourage hostile attitudes towards South Korea and Western countries, and portray the DPRK in a positive light. According to The Dong-a Ilbo, foreign-based websites include the following: Joseon Tongsin (Korean News Service) and Guk-jeonseon in Japan, Unification Arirang in China, Minjok Tongsin in the United States, and twelve new pro-North Korean websites have launched, including the "Korea Network". In August 2010, BBC News reported that an agency contracted by the North Korean government has fielded an official DPRK YouTube channel, Facebook and Twitter accounts for Uriminzokkiri. Both the Twitter and YouTube accounts are solely in Korean. The BBC reported, "In a recent Twitter post, the North Koreans said the current administration in South Korea was 'a prostitute' of the US", though this wording may be a poor translation into English. Among some of the content on the official website is an image of a US soldier being followed by two missiles, along with various other cartoons, pictures and text, with largely anti-US and anti-South Korean sentiment. In September 2007 the .kp top-level domain was created. It contains websites connected to the North Korean government.
In addition to propaganda sites, there are numerous websites connected to commercial activity. In 2002, North Koreans, in collaboration with a South Korean company, started a gambling site targeting South Korean customers (online gambling being illegal in South Korea), but the site has since been closed down. In late 2007, North Korea launched its first online shop, Chollima, in a joint venture with an unnamed Chinese company. In 2013, The Pirate Bay claimed to be operating out of North Korea after legal challenges forced it out of Sweden. The move was later revealed to be a hoax.
South Korean No Cut News has reported that the North Korean government trains computer hackers in Kim Chaek University of Technology and Kim Il-sung University to earn money overseas. A group of North Korean hackers based in Shenyang, China, developed and sold auto-programs (programs that allow player characters to earn experience and in-game currency while the player does none of the work) for an online game Lineage and a South Korea citizen was arrested in May 2011 for purchasing it.
In December 2014, North Korea was accused of a hack attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment. From 19–21 December, North Korea experienced technical difficulties with Internet access. On December 22, North Korea suffered a complete Internet link failure, resulting in loss of Internet access from outside the country for which the United States is suspected. On 23 December, nine hours after the outage, the country regained Internet access, albeit "partial and potentially unstable with other websites still inaccessible." On 22–24 December, North Korea experienced seven more Internet outages, including two on 23 December. On 27 December, the country experienced an outage on Internet (the third time of the year) and a mobile network. A similar outage, lasting for one and a half days, occurred in March 2013.
South Korean Internet regulations
South Korean Internet users must comply with Trade Laws with North Korea (Article 9 Section 2) in which one needs to have the Ministry of Unification's approval to contact North Koreans through their websites.
IP address ranges
- 18.104.22.168 – 22.214.171.124
Despite North Korea's limited Internet access, the small pool of IP addresses has led to very conservative allocations. The Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, for example, had in 2012 just one IP address on the global Internet.
North Korea's telecommunications ministry was previously also the registered user of 256 China Unicom addresses (126.96.36.199 - 188.8.131.52). This pre-dated the activation of North Korea's own block.
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inetnum: 220.127.116.11 - 18.104.22.168 netname: KPTC
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Dyn Research, which monitors international internet traffic flows, said it had seen Russian telecommunications company TransTeleCom routing North Korean traffic since about 0908 GMT on Sunday.