North Korean Web Site Evades Censors for Now

A new Web site that appears to be one of the first to operate from inside North Korea remained unblocked by South Korean government censors as of Friday afternoon.

The Web site carries news in English and Spanish from the official Korea Central News Agency (KCNA). The news articles are identical to those on a long-standing KCNA Web site that operates from Tokyo, but they appear roughly 18 hours earlier on the new site.

The site in Japan is one of roughly 30 linked to North Korea that are routinely blocked in South Korea. Attempts to access the sites from a South Korean Internet connection result in a warning message from the country's National Police Agency.

The new site is accessible from inside South Korea, according to tests and messages from Korean Internet users.

While the actual location of the site is difficult to confirm, Internet tests point to it being operated from within North Korea.

Traffic to the site runs through neighboring China before ending up at the Web server and its IP (Internet Protocol) address belongs to a block of 1,024 addresses reserved for use by North Korea.

The site, existence of which was first reported by IDG News Service on Saturday, is the first visible use for the addresses. They were inactive for several years before being recently assigned to Star JV, a joint venture between Thailand's Loxley Pacific and the North Korean government.

Like much of what happens in North Korea, official details of the network are lacking, but the emergence of the site comes shortly after North Korea stepped up its propaganda efforts on social media.

Uriminzokkiri, a Web site that carries Korean-language despatches from KCNA and domestic newspapers, recently launched feeds on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Flickr.

The Facebook channel quickly disappeared but the others are enjoying modest success. The Twitter channel counts 10,430 followers and its YouTube videos have been viewed more than 456,000 times.

Last weekend, when North Korea invited foreign journalists to cover the celebrations marking the 65th anniversary of the Korea Workers Party, it surprised correspondents with full Internet access in a press room. Trips to Pyongyang by outsiders are typically marked by a lack of Internet.

There's no evidence yet that the North's increasing sophistication with the Internet is touching the lives of its citizens. North Korea remains one of the most tightly controlled countries in the world and average citizens are banned from consuming foreign media. A nationwide intranet has existed for several years, but it doesn't offer access beyond the borders of the country.

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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