South Begins Blocking North Korean Twitter Account

South Korea has begun blocking access to a Twitter account operated by a North Korean Web site.

The site, Uriminzokkiri, launched the Twitter feed @uriminzok last week and has been providing Korean-language headlines and links to propaganda-heavy news items on its home page. It's launch was widely reported and the publicity has brought it more than 9,000 followers in the week since it launched.

But followers in South Korea trying to access the Twitter feed's page on Friday were greeted with a page from the Korea Communications Standards Commission and National Police Agency advising them that the content was being blocked.

Uriminzokkiri, which means "Our Nation," is the closest thing North Korea has to an official home page and it's already blocked from South Korea as part of government censorship that has seen several tens of sites blocked from local access. Most of the sites are associated with or sympathetic to North Korea, with which the south is still technically at war.

The blocking appears to be aimed solely at @Uriminzok Twitter account's main page address (http://twitter.com/uriminzok) and is easy to bypass for anyone with a little technical knowledge.

Connecting to the same page over a secure Web connection, to https://twitter.com/uriminzok, still allows access and retweets of messages from the account can also be seen via the accounts of users that relay the message. The blocking has also not affected access via the Twitter API (application programming interface) so it hasn't affected third-party clients like Tweetdeck.

The start of Twitter updates by Uriminzokkiri wasn't the site's first move into social media. About a month earlier it launched a YouTube channel. The channel already has 145 videos, many of which are news reports from Korean Central Television.

The South Korean government said earlier this week that it would also target Uriminzokkiri's YouTube channel, according to an Associated Press report. To date it remains available.

In the last few days a Facebook group has also been established in the name of the Web site, but it's authenticity cannot be confirmed. It carries links to content on the site and from the YouTube channel, but unlike the other social media efforts it is not listed on the Uriminzokkiri home page. It has also been "friending" other users, something that the Twitter channel is not doing.

And the Twitter account has also attracted a parody, @Fake_Uriminzok, which describes itself as "A satirical twist on North Korea's laughable attempt at public diplomacy, @uriminzok."

"Blah blah blah blah US devil monkeys blah blah blah blah," read the first post sent on Wednesday in mock of the often harsh and outdated language used in news reports against the U.S. and its allies. The account has so far attracted just 33 followers.

(Additional reporting by Hyuna Kim in Seoul.)

Martyn Williams covers Japan and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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