You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

No Internet For You! In North Korea, A Small Elite Accesses Limited Online Content

BY Julia Wetherell | Tuesday, December 11 2012

Screengrab of Naenara, North Korea's state-sanctioned Internet portal

Though North Korea remains as isolated as ever from the technological community (as TechPresident wrote last year,it was a full 48 hours after the death of Kim Jong-Il before the news broke on Twitter), the Internet is a temptation both for the country’s citizens and for the government of Kim Jong-Un, as the BBC reports.

While the only telecom provider in North Korea has no mobile network, its 3G connection speed can be used on illegal cell phones smuggled from China, giving ordinary North Koreans the chance to go online. Many do so, even at the risk of imprisonment.

"In order to make sure the mobile phone frequencies are not being tracked, I would fill up a washbasin with water and put the lid of a rice cooker over my head while I made a phone call," said one interviewee, a 28-year-old man who left the country in November 2010.

"I don't know if it worked or not, but I was never caught."

Today, only members of the North Korean elite have access to state-controlled Intranet, on which a limited number of websites are all programmed to display Kim Jong-Un’s name in a slightly larger font; an even smaller group, relatives of the ruling family, has unrestricted Internet access. But with a prospective satellite launch flaunting Kim Jong-Un’s technological prowess, could showy advances in telecommunications be far behind? How totalitarianism will fare on an information superhighway remains to be seen.

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network for its generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.