Posts tagged China
Engineers from North Korea and seven other nations are being given training in technology related to China’s Beidou (Compass) satellite navigation system this week, according to Chinese media reports.
The engineers are attending a course in Hubei province being put on by the National Remote Sensing Center. The organization is part of China’s Ministry of Science and Technology and is charged with development of the Beidou system. More >
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry took the opportunity of a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping to push the Chinese government to do a little more to enforce sanctions against North Korea.
Speaking at a joint news conference after the meeting, Kerry said they discussed “the importance of enforcing UN Security Council resolutions that impose sanctions on North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs.” More >
Cracks in the information wall that has long surrounded North Korea are increasingly allowing citizens in the country more exposure to foreign media, according to a report published on Thursday.
The report, produced by Intermedia for the U.S. Department of State, was based on surveys of several hundred defectors, refugees and travelers, and found “substantial numbers” are able to access outside media.
It’s based on a relatively small sample of a few hundred people made up of those who have already made it outside the country, either by defecting or crossing the Chinese border for trade. Therefore, the results can’t simply be extrapolated to the entire nation, but the report provides some fascinating insight into life in North Korea today.
The most prevalent form of foreign media is DVDs, smuggled into the country from China and usually containing South Korean dramas.
Almost half of 250 of North Korean refugees and travelers interviewed in a 2010 survey reported having watched foreign DVDs. That was significantly more than the 27 percent who said they had listened to foreign radio and 24 percent who reported watching foreign TV.
The broader audience for DVDs and a willingness to share viewing with trusted friends is getting foreign content to people that don’t fit the typical profile of a foreign radio listener. It’s through DVDs that many North Koreans get their first glimpse of the world in general and South Korea in particular, the report said.
The majority of listening is done late at night, with the 10pm to 1am timeframe attracting most listeners. That’s reflected in the broadcasting schedules of international stations, which schedule most programs on air during the late evening hours.
Listening to foreign radio presents some challenges, from getting a radio with an adjustable tuner to listening through atmospheric static and government jamming, but it remains the only medium capable of delivering daily news into all of North Korea.
Some respondents reported viewing of foreign TV broadcasts. Reception is typically limited to border areas because signals from South Korean and Chinese stations don’t reach more than a few tens of kilometers into the country.
Along the northern border, Yanji TV from China was watched weekly by 15 percent of those surveyed. Only 4 percent reported weekly viewing of South Korea’s KBS. The lower number probably doesn’t reflect a relative lack of popularity but rather a smaller number of survey respondents from southern provinces and technical differences between the North and South TV standards.
While many North Koreans still have no direct access to foreign information sources, the report found those with direct access are increasingly willing to share thinformation they learn with their family and trusted friends.
If representative of wider North Korean society, the findings suggest that fewer North Koreans are willing to report on each other than before. In the past, some defectors have talked about hiding their foreign media consumption from members of their own family for fear of getting reported to authorities
But getting caught accessing foreign media, such as cross-border radio, remains risky and penalties can be severe, the report said.
The entire report can be downloaded from the InterMedia website.
(Disclosure: InterMedia provided domestic travel for me to attend the report launch and asked me to speak at the event.)
Kim Jong Il’s tour of China at the end of May saw the North Korean leader take in several high-tech factories and companies.
China Central Television (CCTV) broadcast a comprehensive report on the visit (aired after Kim had left Beijing) and provided details on some of the tour stops.
They included Yangzhou Smart Valley, the country’s Smart Grid Demonstration Center. There Kim got a demonstration of an e-book reader. He also visited Panda Group, a large manufacturer of consumer electronics products, and Beijing Digital China, an IT services company.
Here are some pictures from the trip, courtesy of CCTV:
The reports come at an interesting time for free-speech online. Internet-based social networks and communications systems are being hailed as instrumental in protests that have toppled two Middle Eastern leaders and the U.S. has confirmed a commitment to advancing Internet freedom with diplomatic pressure and grants of up to US$30 million.
Internet access is available in the DPRK, but is believed to be severely restricted to all but the most-trusted members of the government and related organs.
KCNA’s first report came on Feb. 14, three days after Hosni Mubarak was forced to resign as president of Egypt after two weeks of protests and unrest. Egypt and the DPRK have long ties.
The news agency reported a People’s Daily editorial on the evils of misinformation spread through the Internet. I haven’t been able to find the original editorial in the newspaper’s English-language website, but KCNA said:
The Chinese People’s Daily described misinformation spread through Internet as “evil virus”.
In a commentary on January 30, the newspaper said such misinformation is aimed to disturb public sentiments under the disguise of the “people’s opinion”.
The “virus” badly affects the psychology of Internet users, impeding the sound development of Internet, the commentary said. — KCNA, Feb. 15, 2011.
A few days later it reported on a new effort by the Chinese authorities “against yellow culture and illegal publications in order to ensure a sound and stable social order during the lunar New Year celebration days.”
The main purpose of the campaign is to prevent vulgar and erotic information from spreading through Internet and mobile phones and check infringement upon intellectual property rights and manufacture and selling of sham and low-quality goods.
The campaign is also aimed to create a harmonious cultured atmosphere in markets and help youngsters keep up sound physical and mental conditions through Internet and promote markets’ development through production activities. — KCNA, Feb. 20, 2011.
And then a day after that, it reported on China’s response to the U.S. State Department plan to push for Internet freedom and fund projects to bypass state control, like that exercised in China.
A spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry said at a press conference on Feb. 17 that the United States should refrain from interfering in internal affairs of China over internet access.
The spokesperson reiterated the Chinese government’s position that the freedom concerning Internet is guaranteed by law in the country.
The remark serves as a warning to the U.S. against its demand for stopping website filter. — KCNA, Feb. 21, 2011.
The People’s Daily came out against the U.S. plan and that article is online: “Commentary: The Internet belongs to all, not just the US.”
The U.S. said its $30 million would go towards “funding to increase open access to the Internet, support digital activists, and push back against Internet repression wherever it occurs.”
Even with access so tightly controlled at present, the economic benefits of access will likely drive expansion in the DPRK as it has done in other countries, so any push by the U.S. could eventually have an impact in North Korea.
It’s worth remembering that North Korea and China aren’t the only East Asian nations that filter and block selected Internet sites. South Korea has an efficient government-run firewall that attempts to block access to pornography and a handful of North Korean websites.
The U.S. campaign targets repression “wherever it occurs,” so perhaps the South Korean government will be feeling some effects too.
Bloomberg Businessweek has a story on the Chinese cell phones in use in North Korea along the border region. It estimates around 1,000 people use such phones to keep in touch with relatives and associates in China, South Korea and elsewhere. Because the cell phones connect to Chinese cell phone towers it’s difficult for the North Korean government to eavesdrop on the calls, but it does mean use is restricted to the border area.
The piece interviews Open Radio for North Korea, the Seoul-based shortwave broadcaster, and the Daily NK Web site on how they gather information from inside North Korea via these Chinese cell phones.
Full story: North Korea Open Radio Prompts Wonder About Riches Over Border, Bloomberg Businessweek