Posts tagged Korea Posts and Telecommunications Co.
Officials from North and South Korea have come to an agreement that should allow limited Internet access inside the Kaesong Industrial Zone, the jointly-run manufacturing complex just north of the inter-Korean border.
The agreement was reached during talks on Friday, according to reports quoting South Korea’s Unification Ministry.
South Korean managers who work at the factories in the industrial park will be able to get Internet connections once a link is installed by South Korea’s KT and North Korea’s Korea Posts and Telecommunications Co. (KPTC).
The industrial zone is home to over 100 South Korean-owned factories.
The agreement comes weeks after the two sides installed a new radio identification (RFID) system that is supposed to make it easier for South Korean workers and goods to enter and exit across the border.
The Kaesong Industrial Zone has been in operation since 2004. Work was suspended in April 2013 as the result of a diplomatic dispute between the two countries and resumed in September. South Korea brought up the issue of Internet access at that time.
In November, North Korean state media reported an international consortium had begun construction of a second economic park at Kaesong.
The Kaesong Hi-Tech Industrial Park is intended to attract high-tech companies from South Korea and further afield.
When North Korea launched a modernization of its broadcasting network in 2011, the Chinese company chosen to supply new TV and radio transmitters to the country faced a problem.
The location of broadcast towers in North Korea is so much of a state secret that engineers from the company weren’t permitted to travel to the DPRK to help install the transmitters, the company, Beijing BBEF Science and Technology, said on its website.
Instead, eight North Korean engineers spent a month in China being trained on how to install and operate the devices, which included a medium-power TV transmitter, several shortwave radio transmitters and a powerful mediumwave (AM) radio transmitter.
Our company supplies North Korea with 10kW [kilowatt] TV transmitter, 20kW/50kW/100kW/150kW SW radio transmitters, 600kW MW radio transmitter, together with the accessories. — BBEF website in English
The training ran from June 1st to June 27th last year.
On June 24 a ceremony was held (pictured, above) marking the training. BBEF listed the attendees as: President Zhao Baoshan, Party Committee Secretary Zu Wei, Vice President Ye Jin, and North Korean trainees.
Firstly, President Zhao Baoshan congratulated to the trainees on what they had learned and appreciated their performances. Then Vice President Ye Jin gave a short speech, praising the progress made by these technicians. North Korean expressed gratitude for the training and mentioned their wishes for further cooperation with BBEF. Last but not least, Party Committee Secretary Zu Wei and Vice President Ye Jin awarded the interns with Certificates of Completion. — BBEF website in English
Perhaps it’s an indication of the importance of propaganda and the government’s official media system that it’s not willing to allow outsiders to travel to the transmitter locations.
Recent monitoring of North Korean radio transmissions does indicate the installation of a new radio transmitter on 11680kHz shortwave. Previously the broadcasts on 11680kHz, like some other North Korean domestic radio transmitters, wandered a little either side of their assigned frequency but they are now observed to be exactly on 11,680kHz.
While the location of the transmitters might be a secret inside North Korea, that’s not quite the same outside of the country. Thanks to the satellite images on Google Maps and other mapping services, the location of most transmitters has already been found.
A recent Google Earth update has revealed some changes at one of North Korea’s largest international communications center.
Pyongyang Earth Station, situated in Pyongyang’s eastern suburb of Sadong, is believed to be responsible for the country’s civilian satellite communications links with the rest of the world. I wrote a little about its history in a previous post.
Late last year it’s testcard (pictured, right) was seen at the end of the international TV feed of the funeral procession for late leader Kim Jong Il.
While there hasn’t been much change at the facility in several years, the summer of 2011 appears to have brought a change in the number and configuration of satellite dishes at the communications center.
Here’s what it looked like before the changes. This image is from October 2010. There’s a later picture, from May 2011, but this one shows off the bright white antennas better and there were no changes between the two pictures:
Notice the large satellite antenna in the top right of the facility and the collection of seven smaller antenna in front of the building on the left side of the picture.
Now take a look at the latest picture, from October 6, 2011. The large antenna in the top has been removed and the smaller dishes have been consolidated into three (there might still be one at the base of the largest antenna, it’s difficult to see from the image).
What does this mean? Like much in North Korea, it’s impossible to tell without more information.
Perhaps the removed dishes were no longer in operation, perhaps they weren’t needed or perhaps they were moved to another location.
The satellite dish farm at the Pyongyang TV Tower has been significantly expanded in the last few years, so perhaps some of the functions have been moved there.
Last year’s TV feed of the Kim Jong Il funeral shows the Pyongyang Earth Station lives on in name at least. When North Korea marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung in April, this facility is probably the one through which the world will get a glimpse at the celebrations and ceremonies being held in North Korea to mark the occasion.
Cyber attacks against South Korean organizations have been much in the headlines in recent weeks. With each attempt to crash a web server, phish for private information or infiltrate a computer in South Korea, the country’s government points its finger of blame towards North Korea, but concrete evidence is often thin on the ground.
Investigators will typically try to trace a cyber attack by discovering the IP (Internet protocol) address from which it originated. Every computer on the Internet has such an address and discovering the source address will typically help identify the organization or service provider network from which the attack was launched.
But tracking cyber attacks is a difficult job at the best of times — attackers don’t often use their own machines but those of other people that they control through malware. In some cases they will route traffic through numerous points so it’s difficult to trace all the way back to source, and in other cases will use fake IP addresses to divert attention elsewhere.
Perhaps the North Korean hackers aren’t skilled enough to cover their tracks, so the source IP addresses can be easily caught, maybe they want the source to be clear, or perhaps North Korea is being implicated by hackers in other countries and the South Korean government is a little too eager to blame its neighbor. Without more technical information, it’s impossible to know.
There are two blocks of IP addresses that can be readily identified as North Korean.
The first is a block of 1,024 addresses that was put into use in 2010 by Star Joint Venture, the Internet service provider venture between the state-run Korea Posts and Telecommunications Co. and Thailand’s Loxley Pacific.
This is used to house all the official North Korean websites, such as KCNA, Naenara, the Voice of Korea, and Rodong Sinmun. Computers in North Korea capable of accessing the global Internet, such as those owned by resident foreigners, also use addresses in this range.
The block runs from 184.108.40.206 to 220.127.116.11.
A second, lesser known block of addresses also exists.
It contains 256 addresses and runs from 18.104.22.168 to 22.214.171.124.
Here’s what you get when you query the addresses in the “whois” directory:
inetnum: 126.96.36.199 - 188.8.131.52 netname: KPTC country: CN descr: Customer of CNC admin-c: TC254-AP tech-c: TC254-AP status: ASSIGNED NON-PORTABLE changed: email@example.com 20040803 mnt-by: MAINT-CN-ZM28 source: APNIC
At first glance they appear to be Chinese addresses because they are owned by China Netcom, one of China’s largest Internet service providers. But a closer look reveals they are assigned to a customer called KPTC. That’s Korea Posts and Telecommunications Co., the government-run telco.
The addresses were previously used for several North Korean websites and related Internet services including the Chesin e-mail system. Most of the services have moved to the Star JV addresses, but at least one website still uses the Chinese addresses: Chosun Expo.
They are still in use for other purposes. Scanning sometimes reveals blank or test websites that appear and disappear within a day, and there are at least three routers connected through the addresses behind which there are likely additional PCs.
A couple of new details about Star JV, the company now responsible for North Korea’s connection to the global Internet, came to light this week.
They were included in a report from the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) about the reassignment of the country’s dot-kp domain to Star JV.
The report reveals the mission of the company and its president:
Proposed Sponsoring Organisation and Contacts
The proposed sponsoring organisation is Star Joint Venture Company, based in Pyongyang, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The company is a joint venture between the Korean Post and Telecommunications Corporation, a governmental enterprise; and Loxley Pacific Company Limited. The joint venture is chartered to establish modern Internet services in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The proposed administrative and technical contact is Kang Yong Su, the President of Star Joint Venture Company. The administrative contact is understood to be based in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Star JV is already beginning to deliver on the mission. In less than a year it’s connected several North Korean websites to the world (see the North Korean Website List for more). What’s actually going on inside North Korea is, as always, a little more difficult to determine.
The company has taken over providing Internet service to foreign residents in Pyongyang, according to analysis of technical data. Whether its creation has resulted in an expansion of Internet access, filtered or otherwise, to North Korean citizens or officials is impossible to tell.
The president, Kang Yong Su, remains a bit of a mystery. I’ve been unable to locate the name in previous news reports, except for a few instances that are likely different people with the same name. If anyone knows anything about him, please e-mail or add something in the comments.