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The Internet Black Hole That Is North Korea 265

Nrbelex writes "While other restrictive regimes have sought to find ways to limit the Internet — through filters and blocks and threats — North Korea has chosen to stay wholly off the grid. The New York Times discusses the total lack of 'net access facing the North Korean state, and what it means in the long term." From the article: "The South was illuminated from coast to coast, suggesting that not just lights, but that other, arguably more bedrock utility of the modern age -- information -- was pulsating through the population. The North was black. This is an impoverished country where televisions and radios are hard-wired to receive only government-controlled frequencies. Cellphones were banned outright in 2004. In May, the Committee to Protect Journalists in New York ranked North Korea No. 1 -- over also-rans like Burma, Syria and Uzbekistan -- on its list of the '10 Most Censored Countries.' That would seem to leave the question of Internet access in North Korea moot."
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The Internet Black Hole That Is North Korea

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  • by Steve Cox ( 207680 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @04:39AM (#16543722)
    "the Committee to Protect Journalists in New York"

    I have heard its a dangerous place.....

    Steve.
  • Chosen? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 23, 2006 @04:39AM (#16543726)
    They have no electricity for lights, what makes you think they have electricity for internet? They'd have more luck using tubes.
  • HA (Score:5, Funny)

    by rolandbm ( 620159 ) <brad@mcn[ ].com ['ays' in gap]> on Monday October 23, 2006 @04:39AM (#16543728)
    First Po[Censored by Republic of North Korea]
    • by EraserMouseMan ( 847479 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @05:48AM (#16544038)
      Cutting off Internet access is sort of like imposing economic sanctions on yourself.

      In North Korea's case though, it's not like the citizens have any money that they'd spend on anything via the Internet though.
      • by lambji ( 715315 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @06:49AM (#16544336)
        It is not the citizens we have to worry about.. It is the government. I have been on the DMZ. Not a fun place
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by vertinox ( 846076 )
        In North Korea's case though, it's not like the citizens have any money that they'd spend on anything via the Internet though.

        Personally, I have always thought North Korea would be the one to jump on and promote internet piracy and illegal pornography much like they sell heroin and conterfeit super dollars.

        But I don't think they have caught on to that yet... But I wouldn't be suprised if they did.

        It would be something that the RIAA nor the US government could get at either.
  • by tehSpork ( 1000190 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @04:39AM (#16543730)
    That's one less third-world country I have to add to my server's firewall blocking rules!

    On another note, I don't think Internet access is high on their priorities. Building big bombs seems to be first on their agenda. If only they followed Iran's research strategy and started looking for plans on the internet, I bet their tests would go much better. :)
    • by keeboo ( 724305 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @05:07AM (#16543844)
      That's one less third-world country I have to add to my server's firewall blocking rules!

      Funny thing you mentioned...
      On the other hand, most (90% i guess) of my spam advertise services/products which the contact is someone in the U.S. (a so-called 1st-world country), despiste the fact I do not live there.
      Considering this, I would say the root of the problem is not really those poor countries.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      The biggest problem is far and away America. Spammers from there (e360, anyone?) - it's just often /first/ world countries like Korea and Hong Kong, etc, that have more computers compromised (all that fiber to the kerb, yum) that end up (unwittingly) doing the bidding of Americans.
    • by rucs_hack ( 784150 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @07:55AM (#16544706)
      their priority seems to be to create a distraction from their troubles. They know they no-one dares invade, for fear of wrecking complex international relationships (such as with China). This is an exercise to distract their population from the fact that their country is circling the drain.

      If the US leaves the region, which was on the cards, then they lose the 'huge army on our doorstep' argument for maintaining their unrealistic regime. Now the US dare not leave, which is a victory for North Korea.

      That's more or less it, so far as I can tell. Their test was a flop, and they can't feed their population, let alone afford a military campaign. As it is most of the money they might use on that comes from us.

      This is all bound to fail anyway, chances are North Korea won't survive the decade. As it is their hold on ther population is slipping.
    • Well without the Internet how will North Korea use Google Maps to know where to use those bombs.
    • by jonwil ( 467024 )
      Its not like you cant find plans for a hydrogen bomb with a Google Search [google.com.au]...
  • by Silver Sloth ( 770927 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @04:40AM (#16543736)
    It looks like we're going to have to change all those In Soviet Russia... jokes to In North Korea...
    • by ricree ( 969643 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @04:45AM (#16543754)
      They'd get old really fast, since pretty much all of the go something like "In North Korea, you join the army and hopefully manage to avoid starving to death."
      • by AlecC ( 512609 ) <aleccawley@gmail.com> on Monday October 23, 2006 @05:46AM (#16544020)
        According to this weeks Economist, even the army sometimes starves. Families fight to help therir sons avoid concsription into army units notorious for malnutrition.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by pepsi_max2k ( 961389 )
      i thought it'd already been changed to "In Soviet America" myself...
  • by supertux ( 608589 ) * on Monday October 23, 2006 @04:53AM (#16543790) Homepage
    It's not just the internet. Have you ever looked at North Korea using Google maps nighttime [gatech.edu]? North Korea is the black patch to the left of Japan. It is more amusing if you switch to "Dusk Map" as you can clearly see that the lack of lights match exactly with the boarders of South Korea and China.

    Man, sucks to be them. My guess is the lack of electricity in the country is some sort of ploy to confuse all of our advanced weapons and smart bomb technology. ;-)

    It is also worth checking out Afghanistan and Mongolia at night. From looking at their night time maps, I admit that I am just AMAZED at how awesome their energy conservation programs are. California could learn a lot from Afghanistan for sure. And Mongolia better not give the US any lip.

    And if you are looking at the map, check out how well lit Iran is. I don't know about you, but with the amount of bright lights all over that country, I'm guessing the US wouldn't hit that. I think we like our bitches more backwards and with a southern accent. :-)

    • by Lactoso ( 853587 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @05:08AM (#16543848) Homepage
      "Have you ever looked at North Korea using Google maps nighttime [gatech.edu]? North Korea is the black patch to the left of Japan. It is more amusing if you switch to "Dusk Map" as you can clearly see that the lack of lights match exactly with the boarders of South Korea and China."

      We simply can not understand the drive and dedication of the North Koreans. They aren't 'in the dark'. They're training their night vision to be vastly superior to their enemies (everyone). Too bad they don't have an internet connection or they could have found out about night-vision goggles and saved many a stubbed toe. :-(

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Rob Kaper ( 5960 )
      My guess is the lack of electricity in the country is some sort of ploy to confuse all of our advanced weapons and smart bomb technology.

      My guess it's the lack of natural resources in North Korea, forcing them to have a predominantly pre-industrial society. Especially when all resources that are available go to the ruling party and military.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jcr ( 53032 )
        lack of natural resources in North Korea

        Singapore has no natural resources to speak of, and they've built an industrialized economy. North Korea's problem isn't a lack of resources, its problem is that the country is ruled by the last Stalinist dicatorship on earth, and the regime is far more interested in maintaining its power than feeding its people.

        The best thing China can do for the people of Korea, is have one of their agents in the country put a bullet between the eyes of that repugnant little twerp
      • by ccmay ( 116316 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @07:06AM (#16544408)
        My guess it's the lack of natural resources in North Korea, forcing them to have a predominantly pre-industrial society.

        That's one of the most ill-informed excuses for the failure of collectivist economics that I've ever heard.

        Ever hear of a place called Hong Kong? Or Singapore? Teeming with people, severely constrained for resources, and wealthier than any other places in Asia.

        It's not the lack of resources. It's the Stalinist tyranny and socialist economic system. Only children, simpletons, and power-hungry ideologues believe in socialism any more. It is the ideology of the ant hill and the nursery school playground, unworthy of free men. It takes no more intellectual sophistication to believe in collectivism than to believe in Santa Claus, for the same reason and to the same effect. Collectivism has caused more human misery than any other idea of the human mind. With every vote I cast and every dollar I give to politicians, I am guided by my desire to see it crushed and swept off the face of the earth.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Rob Kaper ( 5960 )
          I'm no fan of socialism/communism/stalinism, not at all. But the lack of resources is quite relevant to North Korea considering the Juche ideology of self-reliance. There are plenty of nation states with a collective economy that - while crappy - perform better than North Korea. I don't think resources are the reason why North Korea can't compete with the prosperous world but I do think it is why it can't even compete with Cuba, Middle Eastern theocracies, and so on.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            Actually, North Korea [overpopulation.com] seems to be better off in terms of mineral/industrial resoucres than South Korea. North Korea _does_ have less agricultural land, but an industrialized nation with significant mineral resources should be able to trade for food.

            North Korea is a failed state because Kim Jong-Il is a moron. That's really the long and short of it. Kim Jong-Il is a tyrannical dictator who chooses to micromanage his economy, employing few/no autonomous buercrats. Even an genius would have significant problem
        • by vertinox ( 846076 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @09:57AM (#16545870)
          Only children, simpletons, and power-hungry ideologues believe in socialism any more

          Then why does Norway have the highest standard of living in the world?

          Seriously, get your damn terminology straight.

          Socialism does not equal communism!

          Even then it isn't black and white. North Korea is Stalinist Communist (as opposed to Marxist Communist or post-Stalinist Kruscheve Communist with each its own type of dogma)

          Heck... Hitler's government was National Socialist and that is as far as you can get from communist ideology.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by SQL Error ( 16383 )
            Then why does Norway have the highest standard of living in the world?

            North Sea oil. Without that, their economy would be shrinking.
        • by crabpeople ( 720852 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @12:53PM (#16548214) Journal
          Collectivism has caused more human misery than any other idea of the human mind. With every vote I cast and every dollar I give to politicians, I am guided by my desire to see it crushed and swept off the face of the earth. I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.

        • by pnuema ( 523776 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @02:00PM (#16549224)
          Collectivism has caused more human misery than any other idea of the human mind

          Nah. I think organized religion holds the title for that one.

      • They do have ressources. North Korea is known to have deals with China to export Steels and other goods. The weather is "normal", actually it is quite rainy. There are forests and rich fertile fields. Well any capitalist minded government would make a fortune out of it.

      • The problem is the enormous needs for defense. South and North Korea are still officially at war (it's just a cease-fire) and having such a large army is necessary for security from invasion from the US. Loyalty is pretty good in North Korea and such an army is definitely overkill for any use in a police state.

        The trade embargo that the West maintains on North Korea doesn't help their economy either. They might be rich in some resources, but without energy they're quite useless. They're also quite industria
    • Wow, is that thing ever off. Western Canada and the NW USA are wrong by hundreds of kms.
  • by mumblestheclown ( 569987 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @04:55AM (#16543794)
    Seriously. Was something like 60 euro per hour at the Yanggakdo Hotel in Pyongyang via satellite connection. I doubt it was censored or even monitored, though I'd be a fool to not at least concede the possibility.
    • by Ryu2 ( 89645 ) * on Monday October 23, 2006 @05:38AM (#16543994) Homepage Journal
      Interesting -- when were you there? I was in Pyongyang October 2005, but stayed at the other big foreigner hotel, the Koryo. They had email access then but not Internet (web, etc) access.

      The DPRK contacts that I made gave me their organization's email address; when I asked, they said they had organization email-boxes, and they were "working on" getting individual email addresses.

      So yes, I can corrobrate that the DPRK is not completely isolated from the net. However, the Yanggakdo hotel is only for foreigners (and maybe top government officials who are above the law anyway), so the "Internet access" doesn't really count, as far as North Koreans themselves being able to get on the Net.
  • The biggest issue (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tka ( 548076 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @04:59AM (#16543810)
    And the biggest issue here is the lack of internet access for citizens? That's really like no news. The internet hasn't been that long with us so how can you even think that it could be available in a such poor and controlled country. What you should be conserned about is their basic needs, food, healthcare, farming machinery etc. Of course internet, if it was available for them by some miracle, could help them break free from the crazy leader but still, that's like climbing to a tree backwards.
    • by Rob Kaper ( 5960 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @05:36AM (#16543978) Homepage
      The internet hasn't been that long with us so how can you even think that it could be available in a such poor and controlled country.

      I agree with the controlled bit, but poverty is not a very strong argument. Internet is easily available in most of Africa. DSL isn't widespread nor is PC ownership, but GPRS connections are quite common and the pre-paid cell phone market is booming with subscriber numbers doubling every year.

      And keep in mind that investments in technology need not necessarily compete with investments in farming or healthcare.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        And keep in mind that investments in technology need not necessarily compete with investments in farming or healthcare.

        It is more than simply not compete - they complement each other.

        For example, the local farmer with net access via a town internet cafe is able to find out about potential markets for his crops that are much further away and possibly much more lucrative than a farmer with no network access could ever hope to.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 23, 2006 @05:01AM (#16543824)
    Millions of teenage boys with severely limited access to porn! It's like something out of a horror movie.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by zoydoid ( 228959 )
      And you know what lack of access to porn leads to, right? Yup... The Sound of Music and Julie Andrews singing.

  • by VendettaMF ( 629699 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @05:10AM (#16543854) Homepage
    The Internet. Yeah. Gret thing. Usefull tool. Fun plaything.

    Ultimate requirement as a definition of a states wellbeing? Hell no.

    The arrogance of suggesting the internet supercedes items such as newspapers, phones (remember those things? No IP, just voice -> voltage -> voice), hell, even a decent postal service is laughable.

    North Korea? Yeah, the place sucks. I haven't lived there, but I have visited, and even by what could be seen from the touristy approved areas it's not a good place. That's not the point of my post.
    • by trawg ( 308495 )

      The arrogance of suggesting the internet supercedes items such as newspapers, phones (remember those things? No IP, just voice -> voltage -> voice), hell, even a decent postal service is laughable.

      Shrug, I'd probably argue that Internet access is probably somewhat more useful to citizens of a country to get a slightly more objective look at it than a state-run newspaper.

      I agree that basic services like water and electricity are probably more important, but there's a reason they don't have free, unf

    • The arrogance of suggesting the internet supercedes items such as newspapers, phones (remember those things? No IP, just voice -> voltage -> voice), hell, even a decent postal service is laughable.

      Internet access IS cutting into the profits of newspapers, telecos, and yes, even the postal service, in countries where those have been long-established.

      Phones are an interesting one... In the age of wireless, many countries which didn't already have a fully developed land-line infrastructure (for one reas

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 23, 2006 @05:13AM (#16543864)
    Give a man a fish and he can eat for a day. give a man the internet and he can setup a blog b*tching about the lack of fish and why girls don't like him.

    Unless he is in NK in which case he gets thrown in jail after the first google search.
  • It's like China, but to an extreem, they maintain power by keeping the people the govern unimformed of what the rest of the world is doing, the last thing they want is for the public to learn. Especially learn how the world sees them. All tyranical goverments fall, and all good goverments go though coruption and greed(take a look at us here in the U.S.A. The only goverments that survive are those where the people are in control. Like I say to many people real life, if you didn't vote... Shut up!!
    • by DrSkwid ( 118965 )
      Hmm, "Which gun would I like to be shot with?" interesting choice.

  • by Kim Jong Il ( 644782 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @05:23AM (#16543914) Homepage
    I read Slashdot all the time!
  • by this great guy ( 922511 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @05:33AM (#16543962)
    The Internet is all about sharing information. Yet, they chose to make it difficult for people to share and access it. Gosh, I hate this nytimes.com login form. Here is a direct link to the article (no login required) [nytimes.com].
  • The image in TFA merely indicates that the North Koreans are apparently very respectful of light pollution.

    Obliterating our beautiful night skies with yucky orange glow should not be seen as a sign of civilisation.

    Of course, the reality probably is that they aren't environmentally concious at all, but simply don't have much electricity; however, to use a dark night-time satellite image as proof to bolster that assumption, is pretty ignorant and Amer-Euro-centric[TM].
  • by DeadboltX ( 751907 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @06:09AM (#16544144)
    All the koreans that play Starcraft on Battlenet still are from South Korea then?
  • ...about your oppression and lack of intern.......OH WAIT.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    While I agree that censorship is BAD, why is this newsworthy now?
    Why the highlight in North Korea? Is Korea going to be the next Irak?
  • by Viol8 ( 599362 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @06:25AM (#16544214) Homepage
    I think in the west we overrate the importance of the internet. At the end of the
    day if the internet suddenly vanished the world economy would survive. If the oil
    suddenly vanished , well you get the idea. So why do people thing that a country that
    has deliberately cut itself off from most of the outside world NEEDS the internet?
    They don't. They don't operate under a capilist economic system so any business
    argument is moot anyway and as for the entertainment side , well they don't even
    have proper TV or radio entertainment so first things first perhaps. I'm sure
    the population after having to survive the whims of a psychotic dictator will
    manage to survive the 21st century without access to Slashdot or YouTube.
  • by Ryu2 ( 89645 ) * on Monday October 23, 2006 @06:27AM (#16544230) Homepage Journal
    I took a trip to the DPRK about a year ago, and had a chance to see a "computer lab" in one of the "showcase" high schools.

    They are for the most part still using Win95, etc. As mentioned in the article, they have their own national intranet, but not Internet access. Sanctions probably make it difficult to get newer things.

    Interestingly, for political reasons, they do not use the (South) Korean version of Windows, but rather they are working on their indigenous solution for entering text and displaying Korean script (hangul/chosongul).

    Some pictures are here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ryu2/49295211/in/set- 1070525/ [flickr.com]
    • by Robaato ( 958471 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @07:35AM (#16544578)
      Interesting...

      Are the North Koreans aware that there actually IS a Korean version of Windows? This [1stopkorea.com] travelogue, from back when the World Cup was co-hosted by Japan and South Korea, suggests that they don't. I can easily imagine the North Korean government keeping mum on the existance of a South Korean division of Microsoft.

      Two quotes:
      Oddly enough the students were using the English version of Windows 98 rather than the Korean one. When I asked Mr. Huk why he looked at me like I was an idiot and said because there wasn't a Korean version. A 'fact' that must come as a huge surprise to Microsoft Korea!

      When asked if he felt like they were missing out on all the great information available on the Net Mr. Huk just brushed us off with, "we already know the truth from our government. Why would we want to learn what others say?" Which, in a nutshell, seemed a pretty good explanation of North Korean thought as a whole.
  • From the article,

    Writing in The International Herald Tribune last year, Rebecca MacKinnon, a research fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard, suggested that North Korea's ban on cellphones was being breached on the black market along China's border.

    Here's the referenced article [textually.org]. Bit useless unless you live close to the border, but better than nothing I suppose.

  • It is not true that North Korea is an internet black hole. There are a number of sites, such as http://www.mybaduk.com/ [mybaduk.com] aka Koryo Baduk, aka International Friendship Baduk Game Site, DPRK (North Korea) Lotto Venture which are at least intermittantly reachable.

    When there is connectivity, traceroute suggests a very long, slow trip, via China.

  • They have no Internet, cellphones, hardly any lights at night. All those "modern" conveniences are important to science and engineering, especially science and engineering culture. Yet N Korea has apparently have nuclear bombs, one of the heights of tech achievement for any society.

    Of course Koreans are as natively smart as any people. Maybe smarter: they have to outwit their totalitarian regime to survive. And they invented moveable type at least a half-century before Europe's vaunted Gutenberg. In fact, p
    • by Ihlosi ( 895663 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @06:50AM (#16544340)
      They have no Internet, cellphones, hardly any lights at night. All those "modern" conveniences are important to science and engineering, especially science and engineering culture. Yet N Korea has apparently have nuclear bombs, one of the heights of tech achievement for any society.



      How much internet and cellphones did the US have in the 1940s ?



      Heck. The people who designed and built the first bomb didn't even have pocket calculators.



      It's clear that they got the bomb tech from elsewhere.



      Hm, well yeah. The knowledge that you can build these things has been around for over hald a century. The basic principles can now be found in pretty much any physics textbook, as opposed to _nowhere_ in the 1940s. Unemployed bomb-builders could be found in Russia.



      It's nowhere near as hard to build a bomb now than it was 60-something years ago.

  • I wonder (Score:3, Funny)

    by Vadim Makarov ( 529622 ) <makarov@vad1.com> on Monday October 23, 2006 @06:44AM (#16544316) Homepage
    what's so huge and brightly lit off the eastern shore of South Korea, in the sea?
  • by viking80 ( 697716 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @06:56AM (#16544370) Journal
    North korea claims they have a high speed nationwide network, but that they can not connect it to the internet since USA dominates it.

    The official webpage of north korea is: www.voiceofkorea.org

    You can contact a representitive here: DPRK@voiceofkorea.org

    I actually offered them to install a wifi link for free from Seoul to Pyongyang. Here is the response:

    ===========
    Hi

    I deeply appreciate your advices.

    However, we can not use the facility of South Korea at this time because the two governments did not yet agree for this project.

    You are absolutely right that good communication can often overcome suspicion and disagreement.

    I will forward your message to the concerned ministry of DPRK government, and I will inform you when I get response.
    I will also tell you if any DORK company is interested in developing such project with you.

    Thank you.

    Sincerely yours

    VOICE OF KOREA
  • kimjongil@kwp.nk
  • Millions of Koreans who have not played starcraft or WOW.....

    Simply Amazing!

    Joke over....

    Their suffering is dismal and depressing.
  • Presumably means the RIAA will eventually drop the 300 lawsuits it just filed against North Koreans?

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