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How North Korea’s secret internet works

It was originally assumed to contain over 5,000 national websites, but has now been revealed to consist of as few as 28.

FILE: Picture: freeimages.com.

North Korea has inadvertently revealed a glimpse of its private internet to the rest of the world following a security slip-up. The biggest surprise? It’s even more restricted than we thought.

Kwangmyong (Bright Star) is a fenced-off countrywide intranet with no access to websites outside of North Korea. It was originally assumed to contain over 5,000 national websites, but has now been revealed to consist of as few as 28.

The list of these websites was made public by an IT engineer, based in the United States, who spotted a temporary security loophole and downloaded data from a North Korean server.

Not surprisingly, the North Korean internet features a lot of news about the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un. Food and culture also rank highly, the BBC reports.

According to the listing, content available on Kwangmyong includes the Korean Central News Agency, the state insurance corporation, the official government web portal and the Pyongyang Broadcasting Agency’s website, which is targeted at people in Japan, China and South Korea.

On the lighter side, there’s a Korean cookery site, two sports news portals, the websites of the Pyongyang International Film Festival, the Korean tourist board and the national airline, Air Koryo.

The newly discovered websites may not be an exhaustive representation of everything North Koreans can access on Kwangmyong. However, they suggest a much more limited outlook than previously thought.

The leak adds an extra dimension to the rest of the world’s understanding of North Korea’s home-grown internet, the existence of which only came to light after the nation experienced an internet outage in 2014.

Earlier this year, a web performance monitoring company revealed that the country had created its own version of Facebook, called Best Korea’s Social Network. It has also been reported that there are only two email providers in the country.

Kwangmyong is free to use for those with access to a computer. However, not only are PCs prohibitively expensive to average North Koreans, but owning a computer is also subject to government permission. Once you have purchased a PC, you also have to register it with the police.

In real terms, this means that out of a population of 25 million, only a few thousand have access to the Korean internet, according to the Daily Telegraph.

By and large, only government officials and people with special permissions are allowed to access the “real” global internet, which is routed via China.

Foreign visitors are also given access, using a 3G mobile network, but the government announced earlier this year that it would block YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Voice of America and South Korean media sites.

This article was republished courtesy of the World Economic Forum.

Written by Andrea Willige, Formative Content.

For more news, analysis and insights on Davos 2017 go to EWN’s WEF portal in partnership with Ashburton Investments.

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