Posts tagged Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications
North Korea has banned the use of satellite Internet connections and WiFi networks by foreign embassies and international organizations unless they get government approval.
The switch, which came in mid August, gives credibility to an earlier report that unencrypted wireless networks at embassies were being used by North Korean citizens to gain uncensored access to the Internet.
Foreign missions and aid agencies were notified of the change in policy on August 20 in a communique from the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the full text of which was published on Monday by NK News.
In it, the country’s State Radio Regulatory Department said unlicensed WiFi signals “produce some effect upon our surroundings.”
In early August, North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity, a Seoul-based group run by North Korean defectors, said citizens in Pyongyang had been accessing the Internet through connections offered by “powerful” access points at embassies.
The group reported North Korean authorities had asked the embassies to employ passwords or reduce the power of the WiFi signals, but some had ignored the requests. The situation had escalated to the point that people had begun moving house just so they could live within range of the signals.
“Therefore, it is kindly notified that the regional wireless network is abolished here,” the letter sent to foreign missions said.
It added that embassies and organizations that want to continue using WiFi or satellite Internet connections are required to “seek a consultation” with the radio regulatory body.
“It would be appreciated if the missions could positively cooperate in the current measures taken for the security of the DPRK,” the letter said.
Those that don’t comply face a fine of up to 1.5 million North Korean won (roughly US$11,500 at the official exchange rate of around 130 won to the dollar) or confiscation of the equipment.
It’s unclear how actively the embassies and aid organizations provided their WiFi signals but it was almost certainly a conscious decision. Diplomatic security requires encrypted signals to avoid eavesdropping so making available an unencrypted signal is unusual. It would not have been used for any official business.
Internet access is heavily restricted in North Korea and not available to most citizens. Those that are offered access, at universities or companies, have their usage monitored.
The country is consistently ranked as one of the worst places in the world for censorship.
The report comes days after Koryolink, the country’s 3G mobile network operator, began deactivating the prepaid SIM cards of foreign visitors as they left the country. Unlike North Korean citizens, visitors are able to access the Internet and make and receive international phone calls.
The reason for Koryolink’s change is unclear although it did close a loophole through which the cards could have been smuggled back into the country to provide Internet access for citizens.
The frequencies used by WiFi lie in radio spectrum that in many countries doesn’t require a license. A big part of the success of the technology and of Bluetooth, a lower power wireless data system that uses the similar frequencies, is down to the lack of a licensing requirement. But every country maintains a sovereign right over its airwaves and can impose changes at anytime.
Two ham radio operators hoping to get permission to set up a temporary amateur radio station in North Korea have returned from a trip to the country and have plans to visit again.
Paul Ewing (N6PSE) and David Flack (AH6HY) of the “Intrepid DX” group wrote that they will refine their proposal and “continue to communicate with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications.”
The two want permission to lead two groups of twelve people each on a two week expedition to the DPRK. While inside the country, they plan to operate an amateur radio station and make contacts with ham operators around the world.
Getting government permission for the plan is, of course, essential.
During their June trip, the two entered the DPRK in Namyang, near Tumen, and traveled as far south as Panmunjon, before leaving the country at Wonjong, near Rajin.
“The purpose of the visit was to meet with DPRK Government Representatives in Pyongyang and to survey and assess various potential Dxpedition venues throughout the country. Particular attention was paid to terrain and the availability of reliable power,” they wrote on the “P5 Project” blog.
The project is named for North Korea’s radio callsign prefix “P5.” Because the country has no licensed amateur operators, contacting a P5 radio station is extremely rare. If the group manage to get permission of their plan, they should receive a temporary P5 call sign and there will likely be strong demand to communicate with the station from overseas ham operators.
“Our goals are to provide a much needed P5 contact to the entire amateur radio community world-wide,” they wrote.
The two are now planning a second visit and, in what could be a savvy political move, have added a representative of the Chinese amateur radio community to their group: Fan Bin (BA1RB).
(For background on the project and previous attempts to operate ham radio stations from North Korea, see “Ham radio operators hope to put North Korea on the air” from June 11.)
A group of amateur radio operators are hoping to get permission from the North Korean government for a month-long trip to the country during which they’ll set up a ham radio operation.
If they manage to pull off the plan, they’ll have succeeded where few have before.
North Korea has no amateur radio operators and government-sanctioned transmissions by foreigners in the country are extremely rare. This makes North Korea the rarest country for contacts in the amateur radio world.
The project is still in the planning phase but is being led by operators with experience of both North Korea and operating in usually closed countries. One of the members, David Flack (AH6HY), has been to the DPRK several times and other members helped organize similar trips to Kurdistan, South Sudan and Yemen.
Two of the group are planning to travel to Pyongyang in June and seek permission to bring in two teams of 12 operators and the necessary radios, antennas, power supplies and amplifiers.
The expedition won’t be solely focused on radio activities. They are also running a humanitarian appeal to help the “Love North Korean Children” charity.
Two members of the the group contacted declined an interview request.
There have been several other attempts to get on the air from North Korea. One of the more recent was in 2005.
David Borenstein (KA2HTV), a medical doctor, received advance permission to operate while on a trip to Pyongyang but failed to get on the air. Apparently, an official at the Committee for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries approved the plan without getting clearance from the Ministry of Telecommunications and Posts, according a statement from his sponsor.
His equipment made it through customs and some of it was then held by the ministry for a week before he was told he could not operate in North Korea, the statement said.
To make matters worse, he didn’t get to return with all of his gear. Early discussions had included talk of a donation to the DPRK of amateur radio equipment, and some of Mr. Borenstein’s own equipment was apparently mistaken for the gear to be donated. He ended up with a receipt from the Committee for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries thanking him for his “donation” of a radio, antenna, power supply and other gear.
The most successful has been Edisher Giorgadze (4L4FN), a Georgian working for the UN World Food Programme in Pyongyang. He received permission to operate while stationed in the country and made more than 16,000 communications with more than 12,000 amateurs around the world.
The station was on the air for just over a year, but was forced to close in November 2002.
According to a news release from the time:
“Friday evening, 2002 November 22, Ed was called into a meeting with the “Radio Regulation Board” without any explanation, he was politely asked to quit all transmissions and pack all his radio equipment. Saturday, he spent all day on the roof disassembling his antennas and packing boxes. At 2:30pm on of the government officials came by, sealed all the boxes and when he leaves on December 10 for his two weeks R&R he is to take everything with him out of the country.”
Here’s a couple of photos of the antennas he used:
North Korea denied on Friday that it played any part in a two and a half week long jamming of Global Positioning System (GPS) signals in the border area between North and South Korea.
The denial was carried in several state media outlets and said allegations that the DPRK was behind the jamming were part of “a new farce and smear campaign.”
The jamming took place between April 28 and May 14 and resulted in several hundred civilian aircraft and ships experiencing disruption to their navigation systems, according to reports. It made GPS signals unavailable or unreliable but didn’t result in any serious accidents. South Korean media quoted government sources as saying the jamming signals were coming from the North Korean city of Kaesong.
The North Korean denial was made by an unnamed spokesman for the DPRK’s Ministry of Post and Telecommunications in an interview to the Korean Central News Agency.
At first, the group was so stupid as to assert radio signals seemed to come from the north but later denied itself the story, saying this was not scientifically confirmed for fear of something.
Then the group said in the end it was clear those signals came from Kaesong. Recently it spread misinformation that the north used a vehicle-shape means for jamming the GPS imported from Russia and stopped the jamming operation under the influence of China which was allegedly urged by Lee to tell the north to halt it. — KCNA May 18, 2012.
Here’s the denial as broadcast on the English-language Voice of Korea broadcast from Friday (sorry for the poor audio quality)
Alongside denial of the jamming, the announcement was used as another chance to assert the DPRK’s innocence in the sinking of the South Korean ship the Cheonan just over two years ago. The Cheonan was sunk on 26 March, 2010, with the loss of 46 men. An international investigation pinned the sinking on a North Korean torpedo hit, but the DPRK has denied any part in the incident, which took place near the sea border between the two countries.
A recent hacking incident that paralyzed the computer network of South Korea’s Nonghyup Bank was also denied in the KCNA article. The North Korean government had also previously denied involvement in that incident.
The denial of the GPS jamming came at a time during which the North Korean media is using particularly harsh words against South Korean President Lee Myung Bak and his ministers, so the strong worded conclusion follows that line:
The story about the north’s jamming spread by the group of traitors is nothing but a desperate effort to shirk off even a bit the heavy responsibility for its thrice-cursed high treason.
The group is making its last ditch-efforts to escape punishment for its crimes but it should know that it is too late.
What remains to be done by the group is to make apology to the whole nation and the world and commit suicide. — KCNA, May 18, 2012.
At least two other GPS jamming incidents have taken place in the same area in the last two years.
A report to the South Korean parliament later in 2011 said the DPRK had imported “about 20 communications and radar jamming devices from the old Soviet Union.” Such units mounted on vehicles had been deployed near the border and disrupted GPS signals within a range of between 50- and 100 kilometers, the report said, according to a Yonhap at the time.