Saturday, January 01, 2011

North Korea enters 2011 on a digital platform

It used to be that if you wanted propaganda from North, the official Korea Central News Agency was your destination. But sometime this past year, the hermetic Stalinist ruling clique decided that sort of online communication was too archaic and one-way.

So now North Korea has a YouTube channel and Facebook, Flickr and Twitter accounts to promote the glory of its homebrew “Juche System” ideology.

Pyongyang didn’t make that decision because of its fondness for tweeting. South Korea has an aggressive effort to block its citizens from accessing the North’s Korean-language online content. To break past the firewall, the North jumped into social media last summer, according to U.S. intelligence. The move was announced by a North Korean website called Urminjokkkiri that’s administered out of China. (Here’s its English-language edition.) 

South Koreans visiting Urminjokkkiri can find a link to proxy router programs to help them evade the firewall, according to the August report from the Director of National Intelligence’s Open Source Center, “suggesting a connection with efforts to neutralize South Korean censorship.” 

Pyongyang’s official Twitter account — which has over 10,000 followers — uses TinyURL links, so users don’t get directed to blocked North Korean web addresses.

The YouTube channel is filled with typical North Korean fare: gaunt-looking technicians at factories demonstrating their latest computerized controls; miners extracting endless trays of coal to an accordion-heavy soundtrack; ceaseless military parades. They appear to be clips from state television.

Same goes for the other social-media efforts. The North’s Flickr page is heavy on shots of flash-card dancing and joyful fireworks explosions, with heavy emphasis on the illuminated streets of Pyongyang  — to refute the image of the country as an impoverished, electricity-starved prion-state. Curiously, its Facebook page is pretty barren, except for links to its other propaganda and social-media sites.

[Excerpts from Spencer Ackerman, Wired]

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