Posts tagged Korea Communications Standards Commission
KCNA Watch, a website that collects articles, pictures and video from the Korean Central News Agency, isn’t making friends on either side of the Korean border.
A communications regulator in South Korea has blocked access to the service while the North Korean government has restricted access to its services from New Zealand, apparently due to the way KCNA Watch collects its stories.
The South Korea block, which happened on Friday, was reported over the weekend by NK News. KCNA Watch currently operates as a part of NK News.
Visitors to the site from South Korea currently get redirected to the Korea Communications Standards Commission’s (KCSC) warning site that advises the site they attempted to access contains illegal information. The same message is seen when accessing other banned websites including those from North Korea and those containing pornography.
The KCSC doesn’t detail the reasons for its actions, but a clue can be gathered from the blocking being carried out.
Rather than ban access to all of NK News, the KCSC has targeted just the KCNA Watch section. This is possible because it runs on a different server from the rest of NK News and operates under a subdomain, kcnawatch.nknews.org.
KCNA Watch likely got blacklisted because it carries the full text of all KCNA articles in Korean, English and Chinese, which means it’s also an easy way to access KCNA content and get around the KSCS block on KCNA’s own sites.
Frank Feinstein, the New Zealand-based researcher who runs the service, said he wasn’t surprised by the block.
“I felt this one was coming,” he said via email. “KCNAWatch does Korean, English and Chinese now. I started a YouTube channel also that uploads the KCNA raw video files (that are nearly all in Korean) and at least one went viral on another South Korean video-sharing site.”
Despite its widespread censorship of North Korean-related content, the KCSC’s blocks are usually targeted at those sites that idolize rather than analyze North Korea. Academic and analytical sites are usually available from South Korean Internet connections.
The second block, the one on access to KCNA from New Zealand, was apparently in retaliation for the way in which KCNA Watch gains access to KCNA material. Lacking a dedicated KCNA feed, the site uses multiple automated agents to scrape text, images and video from the website multiple times a day.
The computers doing the accessing use multiple Internet addresses specifically to make it more difficult to block.
“[KCNA] frequently tinker with how many views an IP can have before it’s SlowLoris/DDoS security kicks in,” said Feinstein of the resistance he has encountered in the past when accessing the site.
So, it could be that security software interpreted the numerous access attempts as a cyber-attack — something North Korea has experienced several times in the last year — or it could be that system administrators simply got bored of the scraping.
[Disclosure: The author contributes to NK News.]
South Korean prosecutors are launching a crackdown on websites and users judged to be posting “pro-North Korean” material, according to several local press reports.
The action comes as regulators judge the amount of such material available to South Korean citizens has “mushroomed to a risky level,” according to prosecutors quoted by Yonhap News said.
North Korea’s state-run media outlets have spent the last year launching several propaganda-filled sites that report on aspects of life in the country and extol the benefits of the country’s political system and its leaders. The outlets have also expanded onto social media with Twitter, Facebook and YouTube channels.
The ease with which such information is now available has led to an increase in the amount of North Korean material getting re-posted on blogs and other Internet sites run by South Koreans and those overseas. The government in Seoul has already reacted to some of this with website blocks and, in some cases, arrests.
Now the government feels the content of some sites goes “beyond what can be tolerated within the freedom of expression,” reported Yonhap.
The first step will be a November meeting between the National Police Agency and Korea Communications Standards Commission, which is already responsible for a block-list of pro-North websites and other content deemed harmful.
“In the meeting, the authorities will also devise policy measures to limit locals’ access to pro-North Internet sites based overseas, the prosecution said.
“Amid a national consensus and concern that (the proliferation of) pro-North Internet sites reached a risky level, countermeasures are being considered,” a prosecution official said.”
Last month it emerged the number of websites blocked by North Korea’s censors has risen dramatically in the last two years. Police submitted 80,449 requests for the removal of online postings in 2010 compared to 14,430 in 2009. A year earlier in 2009 it was just 1,793.
But sometimes the guidelines used for blocking are less than clear. At the beginning of this year the website of Beijing-based Koryo Tours was among those blacklisted by the South Korean government. The company runs tours to North Korea and its website includes images of the country, but it doesn’t promote the nation’s ideology, offer tours to South Korean citizens or have pages written in Korean.
The number of requests by South Korean police for the deletion of Internet content alleged to be pro-North Korean has soared in the past two years, according to a report in the Dong-A Ilbo.
Police submitted 80,449 requests to the Korea Communications Standards Commission for the removal of online postings in 2010. That compares to 14,430 in 2009 and just 1,793 in 2008 and represents a 45-fold increase over the last two years, the newspaper said.
The annual deletions of North Korean content were pretty constant during the middle of the last decade at between 1,000 and 1,500 per year. They began to spike in 2009 when the conservative Lee Myung Bak administration came to power.
The Dong-A Ilbo said the spike in 2010 was due both to increased police powers and one major event:
Most of the postings reiterated the North`s claims on the sinking of the South Korean naval corvette Cheonan last year and denunciation of the South for undermining inter-Korean relations. — Dong-A Ilbo, September 17, 2011.
The information was contained in a report to ruling Grand National Party Rep. Park Dae-hae.
Koryo Tours, the Beijing-based travel agent that specializes in tours of North Korea, says South Korea has “over reacted” in blocking its website since the beginning of this year.
The websites koryotours.com and koryogroup.com have been unavailable from South Korean Internet connections since January 26 this year, apparently a casualty of South Korea’s campaign to stop its citizens from seeing North Korean content.
“This came as a complete surprise – we had not been notified in advance or asked to explain particular content, nor notified afterwards and given an explanation,” the company said in a statement.
Koryo Tours said it arranged a meeting with the Korean Communications Standards Commission, the organization responsible for South Korea’s Internet filter, through the British Embassy in Seoul “and were advised to change certain content of the site.”
“The website had been blocked on the grounds that the content of our website violated the National Security Act and other legislation prohibiting “propagandist” information about the DPRK, and prohibiting South Korean citizens from contacting or visiting the DPRK without permission. This was at the request of the South Korean National Intelligence Service (NIS),” the company’s statement said.
Koryo Tours said it changed some pictures and removed links to North Korean websites but drew the line at other changes.
“We are not prepared to delete large amounts of factual content,” it said.
“We believe that the blocking of our website is disproportionate and unjust. There is plenty of information about all aspects of life in the DPRK, including propaganda posters, photographs of revolutionary statues and cultural performances, readily available on the internet. In addition, links to official DPRK websites can be found on many publicly accessible websites, including those of the BBC and British Foreign Office.”
The website remains blocked as of time of writing.
South Korea has begun blocking Naenara and several of its sub-sites. The move comes days after the site reactivated its dot-kp North Korean domain name and plugs a long-standing hole in South Korea’s cyber wall against North Korean online propaganda.
The blocking, first reported by Yonhap, results in South Korean Internet users being redirected to the National Police Agency’s warning site (pictured right.)
It has also taken out the Korea Sports Fund’s Faster Korea page, an out-of-date page for the Pyongyang International Trade Fair, and the sites of the Cholsan Patent and Trademark Agency and Koryo PAT Rainbow patent agency.
Naenara is produced by Pyongyang’s Korea Computer Center and consists largely of news and information about North Korea. It’s available in nine languages: Korea, English, French, Spanish, German, Russian, Chinese, Japanese and Arabic.
The site was previously available via a server in Germany, but it disappeared in 2010 when North Korea’s dot-kp domain names also went offline. The site returned in late October, via a server that appears to be in North Korea. This week its dot-kp domain name was reactivated.
Despite its carriage of Korean-language news and propaganda from the north, the site remained available in South Korea for just-over two months since late October.
South Korea’s blocking doesn’t seem to have affected access to friend.com.kp, the home page of North Korea’s Committee for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries. The site appears to be hosted on the same server as Naenara, so the blocking doesn’t appear to be at the IP address level.
The North Korean Website List has been updated to reflect the new blocking.