Websites

Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang in May 2014 (UN Photo)

North Korea launches online shopping site

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North Korea has launched an e-commerce site on its nationwide intranet, KCNA said Wednesday.

The site, which is accessible via PC and mobile telephone, is called 옥류 (Okryu) and includes consumer goods, medicine and food items. Users can search for goods they want to buy and also schedule delivery, said KCNA.

Payments for the goods can be made with an e-money card. (more…)

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Kim Il Sung University opens website

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Kim Il Sung University, North Korea’s most prestigious seat of higher learning, has become the first university in the country to launch a website on the global Internet.

The site is available in Korean and English and is being served from a computer in Pyongyang. It joins a handful of other websites that are run by the North Korean government and accessible from outside of the country.

The website of Kim Il Sung University (Photo: North Korea Tech)

The website of Kim Il Sung University (Photo: North Korea Tech)

The site is available at http://www.ryongnamsan.edu.kp

There’s much of what you would expect on a university website: a history, areas of study, an outline of some of the research being carried out, the university’s buildings and foreign exchange programs.

One thing you won’t find, at least in English, is much information on current research, personal sites of students or schools at the university, or even contact details.

North Korea has slowly been expanding the number of websites accessible from the global Internet since the Korean Central News Agency went online in 2010.

A larger number of sites are thought to be available on a domestic intranet — and Internet-like network that is only available within the country and does not connect to international sites.

DPRK Today is a North Korean tourism website (Photo: North Korea Tech)

North Korea launches tourist website – although border remains closed

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A month after foreign visitors are barred because of Ebola fears, dprktoday.com tries to lure tourists with pictures of smiling children and short-range missiles

A welcome given to visitors to DPRK Today, a North Korean tourism website (Photo: North Korea Tech)

A welcome given to visitors to DPRK Today, a North Korean tourism website (Photo: North Korea Tech)

By , The Guardian.

North Korea’s border is still closed because of Ebola, but that hasn’t stopped the country launching a website to promote itself as a destination for foreign tourists.

The site, dprktoday.com, offers an animated tour through the customs and culture available in the so-called hermit kingdom. A short film on the homepage welcomes prospective visitors, provides a handy locator of North Korea on the globe, flashes past the Juche tower and runs through the country’s main selling points, from its sporting prowess to the Masikryong ski resort.

The site also provides flight schedules from China, Russia and other foreign cities, lists tourist packages and gives details of luxury hotels.

Many of the images have been given a Disney-like treatment: purple stars added to pictures of children sleeping in a nursery, yellow sunflowers frame a group of waving toddlers. They also feature traditional food, rural landscapes and Pyongyang architecture.

South Korea’s largest news agency Yonhap reports that the North created the website to “satisfy growing interest and expectation” in the country. The website, which suffers intermittent problems with loading and refreshing, is mostly in Korean, with a few English headlines. It is unclear whether there are plans to translate any of the content.

DPRK Today is a North Korean tourism website (Photo: North Korea Tech)

DPRK Today is a North Korean tourism website (Photo: North Korea Tech)

Dprktoday.com’s approach is a departure from that taken by western tour companies who run trips to North Korea. They tend to rely on historical shots, previous tours and events such as the Arirang mass games and the Pyongyang marathon to lure tourists in.

The new site also doesn’t shy away from controversy. A section marked “news” carries pictures of short-range missiles firing into space – similar to those released a few weeks by state media. But there’s no mention of the recent protest in Pyongyang against a UN report denouncing the country’s human rights record.

There is multimedia too: one video sees a presenter introduce himself in front of the Pyongyang skyscape before meeting a young table tennis player near a Winnie the Pooh mural. He takes us on a tour through eerily empty, but spotlessly shiny accommodation. At one point the bathroom door shuts of its own accord.

Those in the North Korean travel industry say that thousands of western tourists visit each year, as do hundreds of thousands from China and some from Malaysia and Singapore. Entering the country is only possible through pre-approved tours, but many of these have been cancelled because of the Ebola ban, which according to a notice on Koryo Tours website is still in place.

Tourism in North Korea is subject to much debate. As the country continues to widens its doors, some have reservations about visiting a totalitarian regime accused of committing accused of mass human rights atrocities against its own people, but others say that any interaction for its citizens, no matter how stage managed, has to be a good thing.

DPRK Today is a North Korean tourism website (Photo: North Korea Tech)

DPRK Today is a North Korean tourism website (Photo: North Korea Tech)

An anti-DPRK website modeled on that of the Korean Central News Agency (Photo: North Korea Tech)

KCNA imposter website disappears

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A website that on first glance closely resembled that of the state-run Korean Central News Agency, but in fact pointed to news articles critical of the country appears to be been taken offline.

The English-language site was available at www.kcna.co and was modeled on the KCNA website run from Pyongyang at www.kcna.kp.

On Thursday lunchtime (Korean time) the site disappeared to be replaced with an “account suspended” notice.

The message greeting visitors on Thursday morning to a page styled after KCNA (Photo: North Korea Tech)

The message greeting visitors on Thursday morning to a page styled after KCNA (Photo: North Korea Tech)

The site had carried the same logo, same selection of languages and same categories of news as the official home page, although on the fake site clicking those didn’t result in anything happening.

An anti-DPRK website modeled on that of the Korean Central News Agency (Photo: North Korea Tech)

An anti-DPRK website modeled on that of the Korean Central News Agency (Photo: North Korea Tech)

It’s unclear how long it had been online. A hit counter at the bottom of the page showed over 322,000 hits, but the counter allows users to set it to begin at a number other than zero.

The identity of the person or persons running the site couldn’t be determined. An email to an address listed on the site did not result in a reply.

It was hosted by Quadranet, a web hosting provider in Dallas, Miami and Los Angeles and the domain name was registered through an Australian company, but the identity of the registrant was hidden.

It linked to articles by various international media outlets including The Guardian, The New York Times, The New York Post, ABC News and The Independent. The news covered a variety of topics including North Korea’s suicide rate, executions, sidestepping of international sanctions and North Korea elections.

“The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) is the State-run News Agency of North Korea (DPRK),” the site said. “It Speaks loudly Against Kim Jong-un’s Dictatorship, Waste of National Budget on Luxuries, Human Right Frictions and Violations of International Law. It was Founded on March 1, 2014.”

Kwangmyong information service (Photo: Naenara)

Kwangmyong has been upgraded, says report

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Kwangmyong information service (Photo: Naenara)

Kwangmyong information service (Photo: Naenara)

Kwangmyong, North Korea’s online information service, has been upgraded.

The network serves scientific and technological information and has been expanded with a new search function that includes a translation function, according to a recent article on Naenara, the website of Pyongyang’s Korea Computer Center.

The article doesn’t go into great date on what exactly is new, but reports:

“Pak Sun Hyok and other programmers of the Information Technology Department set a goal of developing a function capable of referring to databases in different languages at one click with one Korean question through the automatic question-and-translate function and the immediate translating function after retrieval,” it said.

Also new is a tool that allows users to build their own databases. Again, not much information is provided:

“They also developed a managing program in which users themselves can change, design and insert field structure through the building of databases, creating, recording, adding, deleting and changing, and made a free transforming tool between different databases and Kwangmyong,” Naenara said.

The Kwangmyong system was originally developed by the Central Scientific and Technological Information Agency and is now in use in over 200 universities, research institutes, industrial establishments and other places, according to the article.

The downtown area of Chasong, as shown on Daum Maps on August 30, 2014.

South Korea’s Daum launches North Korean mapping service

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Daum has launched a North Korean mapping service, becoming the first South Korean portal to offer maps of the country’s northern neighbor.

The maps are based on data from South Korea’s National Geographic Information Institute (NGII) and, according to local media, provide greater coverage of North Korea than Google Maps.

You can check the maps out for yourself on Daum’s mapping site.

The NGII’s data was previously available to South Korean government agencies and went on sale to the public in mid 2013. NGII offered the map, produced at a 1:25,000 scale, for 17,500 won (US$17).

It covers all of North Korea, detailing towns, roads, railways and stations, buildings and other landmarks but excludes the area near the inter-Korean border. The South Korean government has imposed restrictions on mapping of the border region inside its territory for years. On Google Maps, the border area in South Korea appears in satellite pictures but is largely devoid of roads and other landmarks in the mapping function.

A satellite view of the Korean border from Daum Maps. The area between South Korea (to the right) and North Korea doesn't include satellite imagery at fine resolution for security purposes. The imagery is available on Google Maps.

A satellite view of the Korean border from Daum Maps. The area between South Korea (to the right) and North Korea doesn’t include satellite imagery at fine resolution for security purposes. The imagery is available on Google Maps.

Launch of the data on Daum has received widespread coverage in the South Korean media.

The Joong Ang Ilbo quoted a researcher at the NGII as saying the maps have a 2.5 meter resolution, which means the pictures aren’t as sharp as Google Maps but, “the map covers all areas of the North, while Google only provides a few big cities like Pyongyang and Sinuiju.”

To see the difference, I chose at random Chasong (자성읍), a small town of a few thousand people north of Kanggye near the border with China.

The satellite images show that Google still maintains a big lead over Daum in that department.

The town of Chasong, North Korea, as shown on Daum Maps on August 29, 2014.

The town of Chasong, North Korea, as shown on Daum Maps on August 29, 2014.

The Daum map shows the city in quite a harsh light which, combined with the 2.5-meter resolution, makes things difficult to make out. In contrast, Google’s satellite picture is a much higher resolution so items like the monument in the town square (center, right) can quite clearly be seen.

The town of Chasong, North Korea, as shown on Google Maps on August 29, 2014.

The town of Chasong, North Korea, as shown on Google Maps on August 29, 2014.

But the NGII data presented by Daum clearly has the lead on railways and roads. Google has been asking volunteers to help fill out its map, but it’s still incomplete. The NGII data on Daum shows much more.

Here’s downtown Chasong in Daum Maps:

The downtown area of Chasong, as shown on Daum Maps on August 30, 2014.

The downtown area of Chasong, as shown on Daum Maps on August 30, 2014.

And here’s the same area in Google Maps:

The downtown area of Chasong, as shown on Google Maps on August 30, 2014.

The downtown area of Chasong, as shown on Google Maps on August 30, 2014.

It’s easy to see that the Daum map shows more roads and has more detail than Google.

The Daum Maps even give a clear view of North Korea’s concentration camps:

Kaechon Gulag and Bukchang Gulag as shown on Daum Maps on August 30, 2014.

Kaechon Gulag and Bukchang Gulag as shown on Daum Maps on August 30, 2014.

And Google:

Kaechon Gulag and Bukchang Gulag as shown on Google Maps on August 30, 2014.

Kaechon Gulag and Bukchang Gulag as shown on Google Maps on August 30, 2014.

Google launched navigation in North Korea on Google Maps earlier this year and the extra roads would, in theory, help provide more accurate directions but in reality, there are probably few who would rely on Google Maps to get around the country.

Pyongyang’s cooking website finally appears

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140717-kac-logoA North Korean cooking website has appeared on the Internet more than two years after it was first reported to have launched.

The website of the Korean Association of Cooks offers hundreds of recipes in addition to an introduction to restaurants in North Korea and details of the cooking association.

State media first reported on its launch in March 2012 and again in January of 2013 but both times it wasn’t accessible from the Internet. It was assumed to be an internal site on the Kwangmyong nationwide intranet system accessible in libraries and schools.

But this week a site with the same domain “www.cooks.org.kp” name was discovered to be accessible from the Internet. The exact date it appeared is unclear but Doug Madory from Renesys, which specializes in Internet performance monitoring, said the domain name for the site appeared as far back as May 8 this year.

This is how KCNA described the domestic site:

“The homepage deals with common knowledge and theories on variety of dishes and how to cook them. It also offers such data as origins and anecdotes about dishes and global trend in cooking development. It has a distinctive catalogue for serving housewives’ convenience.”

“When a visitor chooses any food material in the catalogue, she can get detailed information about lists of dishes prepared with it and their cookery. The homepage contains multimedia on national and foreign dishes. Through homepage visitors can exchange their knowledge and views with each other and acquire a wide-ranging cooking.”

The HTML code for the page carries a date of May 2013.

There’s even a contact page:

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North Korea’s newest website: Korea National Insurance Corp.

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The Korea National Insurance Corp., North Korea’s state insurance company, has its own website.

The company, which in the past has been accused of orchestrating international insurance fraud, offers basic information about itself and its financial health. While the site appears to be new, the information on it in both English and Korean dates to only 2012.

The official financial information shows a business that’s growing — just be sure to read the chart from right to left — with the amount of premiums and net worth up every year since 2008. But net profits have been sliding in recent years, down 40 percent in the two year period from 2010 to 2012.

According to the data, which cannot be independently verified, the KNIC made a profit of 5.5 billion North Korean won in 2012 and its net worth was 61.3 billion won. That’s $42.6 million and $471.3 million respectively at the official exchange rate of 130 won to the U.S. dollar. At the black market exchange rate of 8,000 won to the dollar, those figures drop to $693,000 in profit and a net worth of $7.6 million.

The Korea National Insurance Corporation's main financial indicators (Image: KNIC/NorthKoreaTech)

The Korea National Insurance Corporation’s main financial indicators (Image: KNIC/NorthKoreaTech)

The North Korean Website List has been updated to list the site, which is available at http://www.knic.com.kp.

KNIC is the second North Korean business to get a website on a North Korean server. The other is national airline Air Koryo.

There’s more on KNIC at NKEconWatch.

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