Despite being a walled-off country, North Korea still has access to the internet. But it doesn’t work the same way as it does for the rest of the world. Internet in North Korea is heavily restricted, more so than in China, and some natives don’t even know what the Internet actually is. And for those who do, they can get executed just for watching a music video. Having a population of over 26 Million, only a few thousand people have access to the Internet in the country.
So how does the Internet work in North Korea? And why only a handful of people can access it? Let’s find out.
Internet in North Korea goes by the name Kwangmyong which means “Bright Light” and as mentioned earlier, only a few thousand people can access it. It is often referred to as the country’s own version of the internet, although it operates independently and is not connected to the global internet.
This network is heavily censored and allows limited access to information and services within North Korea. It is primarily used by government officials, educational institutions, and a select group of individuals approved by the government. The network is managed by the North Korean government through the National Automated Information Center.
The infrastructure of Kwangmyong is based on a local network of servers and fiber-optic cables, connecting various institutions and organizations across the country. On top of that, it uses the .kp domain name which is not usually accessible from the global network. It is designed to be isolated from the global internet, making it difficult for users to access information from outside of North Korea. This isolation allows the government to exercise strict control over the content available on the network.
As usual, It offers a range of services to its users, including email, news, educational resources, and limited access to a closed version of the World Wide Web known as the “Kwangmyong Web.” The content available on Kwangmyong is heavily censored and filtered, with the North Korean government blocking and monitoring information that it deems inappropriate or threatening to its regime.
Access to Kwangmyong is tightly regulated, and ordinary citizens in North Korea do not have direct access to the intranet. Only a small percentage of the population, primarily those in positions of power or with special permissions, are granted access. This control over information flow allows the government to maintain a high level of censorship and control over the narrative within the country.
ISP & Websites
North Korea’s main ISP is the state-owned company called the Korean Computer Center or KCC. KCC manages and controls the internet infrastructure within the country.
As for the websites belonging to North Korea, the number of publicly accessible websites originating from within the country is relatively small, around 1000 to be precise. Whereas the rest of the world gets to explore more than 1.13 billion websites. The majority of these North Korean sites are operated by the government or state-affiliated organizations.
A few notable websites associated with North Korea include Naenaira, which provides information about the country’s political, economic, and cultural aspects. They also have KCNA, which publishes news articles, commentaries, and official statements reflecting the government’s viewpoint. And lastly, Rodong Sinmun, which features news, articles, and editorials aligned with the party’s ideology.
Let’s say you were in North Korea as an international visitor and needed to use the internet, how would that work out for you? International visitors to North Korea have extremely limited access to the country’s internet. In most cases, they are not allowed to access the Kwangmyong Intranet or use the internet services available to local residents. Instead, they typically rely on specialized networks provided by their tour operators or hotels.
The cost of internet access for international visitors in North Korea can vary depending on the tour package or accommodation. Internet access is generally expensive and may be charged on an hourly basis or as a separate fee. According to TrendMicro, the price of mobile internet back in 2013 went as high as 75 Euros for activation and 10 Euros per month to get as much as 50 megabytes of data. In more recent news by Koryogrpup, a North Korean sim card costs around 250 Euros and people need to pay 20 Euros for 50 megabytes of internet.
As for the future of the North Korean Internet, it is rather difficult to predict due to the secretive nature of the country’s government and the limited available information. However, It is conceivable that North Korea may gradually open up its internet access to a wider audience, allowing greater connectivity and access to information. Then again, instead of full openness, North Korea may opt for a controlled expansion of internet access. This could involve selectively allowing access to certain websites or services, potentially for educational or economic purposes, while maintaining strict censorship and surveillance. North Korea has also shown interest in developing cyber capabilities, particularly for state-sponsored hacking and cyberattacks. It is likely that the country will continue to invest in developing its cyber warfare capabilities, which may include advancements in offensive cyber operations and defensive measures to protect its own networks.