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Posts by Martyn Williams
North Korea’s space agency told the Associated Press last week that it is planning to launch another satellite.
The satellite will be the fifth it has attempted to put in orbit. The first three launches were unsuccessful but the fourth, in December 2012, successfully placed a satellite into space, although the satellite appears to have malfunctioned.
Another launch is certain to bring further criticism from neighboring countries and the United Nations Security Council and North Korea appears to be preparing for this in the same way it handled it last time: by claiming it has a “legitimate right to space development for peaceful purposes” and that any criticism is a double-standard.
Hana Electronics, one of North Korea’s best-known and only electronics companies, is profiled in the latest edition of “Foreign Trade” magazine.
The company was established in May 2003 as a joint venture between the U.K.’s Phoenix Commercial Ventures and the trading department of North Korea’s Ministry of Culture.
It’s been making, or at least assembling, DVD and Video CD players for many years. The actual level of production that goes on at the factory is unknown. The only pictures that have been issued are of what appear to be quality control stations, where finished products are checked. It’s likely the company’s products or major components like circuit boards are made overseas and imported.
North Korea’s Maritime Administration (국가해사감독국) is the latest public institution to put a website on the global Internet.
It’s the first new Internet website from North Korea this year and joins a small handful of sites originating from servers in Pyongyang.
The site has Korean and English language versions and perhaps most interestingly, a searchable database of North Korea’s ships involved in international passage and personnel certified to operate them.
It’s probably the first use of Periscope, Twitter’s new video live streaming tool, from Pyongyang.
Coleen Baik, a designer who previously worked at Twitter, is in North Korea at the moment as part of the Women Cross DMZ movement. The group are in the headlines for their plan to cross from North Korea to South Korea at the border in Panmunjom, if both countries allow it. Right now that appears in jeopardy.
She’s been chronically the trip on Twitter, naturally, with photos and live video.
On the flight to Pyongyang with a little light reading. pic.twitter.com/rS1oZbhwon
— Coleen Baik (@colbay) May 19, 2015
NASA’s satellite images of the Korean peninsula at night are a well known and graphic visualization of the huge gap in economic development between North and South Korea.
But it turns out, there are other lessons that can be learned from nighttime pictures of North Korea. An economist at Stanford University has studied almost two decades of satellite pictures of the country to conclude the government in Pyongyang is shifting economic activity to industrial centers, reducing the effect of sanctions on city dwellers while increasing their impact on those in the countryside.
Lee Yong Suk analysed nighttime images taken by the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program, a U.S. Department of Defense program from which images of the world at night are made available.
There was a little bit of excitement among North Korea watchers, myself included, earlier this year when the state TV broadcaster, Korean Central Television, took its first step towards high-definition broadcasting.
It was signaled by a switch in satellite transmission formats that increased the available screen resolution by more than five times, from just over 414,000 pixels to more than 2 million pixels.
That’s a big deal because getting information out of North Korea is difficult. Sharper, clearer pictures provide a look at North Korea that’s literally much more detailed. It will be easier to see the faces of officials several steps behind Kim Jong Un, the writing on posters and signs on walls and the daily changes taking place in Pyongyang.
To get an idea of the difference, take a look at these images. First the conventional standard definition image:
North Korean TV news doesn’t change very much.
Centrally programmed from Pyongyang, the news can be counted on the provide an update of the work of Kim Jong Un (usually depicted in still photos rather than video), commentary on issues in South Korea and the U.S., reports on innovation in industry, medicine, education and farming, and then the weather report.
There’s not much more to it, so when something changes, it’s worth noting no matter how small the change.
Recently, I spotted a couple of reports that do away with the stale graphics of the past for something that looks a bit more modern. They are part of a gradual modernization of the look of North Korean TV that began in 2012 with the donation of US$800,000 worth of equipment from China Central Television and recently included an update to the opening sequence of the main evening news.
A couple of weeks ago I reported that satellite monitors had found a new feed of Korean Central Television on Intelsat 21, a satellite above the Atlantic that covers all of the Americas and west Europe.
Today I had a chance to check it out.