After taking on the mighty Brazillians in their opening World Cup group game, the North Korean side have another difficult encounter today in their second group game. The North Korean side are not one of the best supported sides in the competition – political restrictions would hinder that anyway, but those fans that are there certainly won’t be staying in touch with their home country via the internet.
North Korea is one of the world’s few remaining information black holes, at least until last week it was. The dictator-ruled nation last week quietly took a first step toward a full internet connection, although it is unlikely the bulk of North Koreans will get access to it in the near future, even if they find out about it. Internet connection there is unlikely to mean freedom of information for North Korea’s citizens.
For many years a block of 1,024 Internet addresses has been reserved for North Korea by the internet community but has never been taken up. Until earlier this month when a company (Star Joint Venture) based in the capital city Pyongyang and with close links to the Government (they helped launch the first mobile phone network in 2002) registered the IP addresses in its name.
What use they will put them to is yet to be seen but the likelihood is that it will be military and government use first. Freedom of information within the country is amongst the most heavily controlled in the world. There is little doubt, as has been seen in China, that access by the public to the full wonders of the internet would have a dramatic effect on the socialisation and education of the population in matters the countries rulers would prefer they didn’t know about.
At present the country relies on servers in other countries to disseminate information. The official mouthpiece, the Korea Central News Agency, runs on a server in Japan, while Uriminzokkiri an unofficial official Web site for the country uses a server in China.
There is a nationwide intranet system called Kwangmyong, running since 200 and connecting educational establishments and the like but that has no links to world beyond. In fact it is estimated that just a few thousand elite members of society have a true internet link. So, if you were thinking of launching an e-commerce project in North Korea it might be best to have a re-think.