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.
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. More >
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.
North Korea has strict controls on internal movement, a scarcity of private car ownership and almost no Internet users. And now it’s also got satellite navigation through Google Maps.
The service is available through the web and mobile apps and allows users to calculate travel time by car or foot between points of interest in the Google database. It’s limited to roads that have already been mapped out on the service.
It’s been over a year since Google began adding roads, buildings, railway lines and other data to its map of North Korea. The country had for years appeared as a grey void but that began to change when users were asked to help start building the map.
“We encourage people from around the world to continue helping us improve the quality of these maps for everyone with Google Map Maker,” the company said in January 2013. “From this point forward, any further approved updates to the North Korean maps in Google Map Maker will also appear on Google Maps.”
As a result of that call for action, and perhaps additional information obtained by Google, users can now do things like this:
The most popular North Korea-related YouTube channel was deleted by the video website on Wednesday for copyright infringement.
[April 26 update: The channel is now back. Read on for details of how that happened]
The Stimme Koreas channel had amassed around 15 million views for the hundreds of videos it hosted, ranking it above second-placed North Korea Today.
It had attracted more than 12,000 subscribers but today all those subscribers saw was a blank page with a message from YouTube:
“YouTube account stimmekoreas has been terminated because we received multiple third-party notifications of copyright infringement from claimants including: DPRKMusicChannel.”
South Korea’s Ministry of Unification will launch on Monday a new web portal focused on North Korea.
The North Korea Information Portal, or NK Info for short, is intended to provide South Koreans with up to date information on the DPRK, the Unification Ministry said.
Here are some screenshots of what you can expect from Monday, January 27:
Twenty balloons, each carrying several large bags of propaganda materials, were launched on Wednesday from Paju, close to the inter-Korean border, according to Human Rights Foundation, a New York-based NGO that focuses on closed societies.
“These balloons are an information lifeline to ordinary North Koreans, who have no means to learn about the world beyond the lies of their government,” said Thor Halvorssen, president of HRF in a statement.
The bags collectively contained around 500,000 leaflets, DVDs with South Korean TV dramas, radios that can be tuned to listen to foreign broadcasts and the USB sticks, said HRF.
Balloon launches across the border have been going on for several years. The bags of propaganda typically have timers that release their contents at preset times when they are likely to be over North Korean territory.
The hope of the human rights groups that launch them is that the contents of the bags scatter over a wide are and are picked up, read and used by North Korean citizens.
HRF said it had originally planned to launch materials across the border in June 2013, but the launch was blocked by South Korean police. At the time, North Korea’s state media issued threats against groups planning the balloon launch and the South Korean government prevented it from happening apparently to reduce tensions between the two countries.
The group promised to continue its efforts this year and said it would “expand its support for technologies and initiatives aimed at disrupting the North Korean regime.”
The app, iJuche, was developed and published in late 2013 and was highlighted on NorthKoreaTech earlier this week. That publicity was apparently enough to get it blocked.
“I just got a call from a person at Apple informing me that iJuche has been found to be in violation of South Korea’s “National Security Law” and has been removed from the South Korean App Store,” said Peter Curtis, the developer of the app.
Users in South Korea that have already downloaded a copy of iJuche, or those with App Store subscriptions in other countries, should still be able to access news through the app, but new users won’t find it available for download in the Korean App Store.
South Korea’s National Security Law is a decades-old law that bans anti-state acts that endanger national security. In recent years, this has been used to ban the redistribution of North Korean propaganda on the Internet.
That means many websites from North Korean and those sympathetic to the country are blocked from local Internet users. It’s also been used to prosecute local Internet users who re-distribute North Korean content, sometimes by simply posting it on a website.
The law has many critics who maintain it restricts freedom of speech and doesn’t belong in a modern, developed society like the South Korea of today.
To-date, most of the sites and services blocked under the law have been those in Korean, although late last year a portion of the NK News website was also cut off from South Korean Internet connections.
KCNA Watch, a service developed by New Zealand-based Frank Feinstein, collates the daily output of KCNA from its website and makes it easy to navigate and search. It’s often easier to find articles on KCNA Watch than through the official KCNA website, and Feinstein’s site maintains the original versions of stories.
The importance of that feature was highlighted last month when KCNA deleted hundreds of articles mentioning Jang Song Thaek, the purged uncle of Kim Jong Un. The articles remain available through KCNA Watch.