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N. Koreans apparently reaching outside world via Internet

More North Koreans are apparently surfing the Web to find out about their country’s ties with South Korea and the U.S., and other issues affecting them, according to the U.S.-funded Radio Free Asia.

Questions have been raised over the surfers’ identities as the autocratic communist state has severely restricted Internet access for fear that it could be used as a conduit to share their democratic aspirations.

According to RFA, six Internet protocols originating from the North have accessed its website via Google since early this year, and the number of hits to the website from the protocols has steadily increased in recent months with 24 times recorded this July.

After tracking the IPs, RFA also found that the viewers used Microsoft’s Window XP operating system to search or gather information on subjects banned by the reclusive state.

The surfers accessed the site mostly after 9 p.m., according to RFA. It also came as a surprise that the surfers used Windows XP rather than North Korea’s own operating system, called “Red Star.”

Information searched for included pieces on reunions of families separated across the border since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, North Korean people’s lives and other social and political issues.

In the secretive state, only top-level government officials were previously able to use the Internet. But it has recently allowed several universities such as Kim Il-sung University to use the Internet for academic purposes.

RFA was not ruling out the possibility that foreigners residing in the North could have used the Internet as it has found some signs of translation from Korean to Russian.

Late last month, the Associated Press, which recently opened a bureau in Pyongyang, reported that a 21-year-old student of Kim Il-sung University prefers “learning online to studying from books.”

The AP emphasized that despite chronic shortages of food and fuel, the unpredictable country, which holds some of the strictest cyberspace policies in the world, is undergoing its own “digital revolution.”

By Song Sang-ho (sshluck@heraldcorp.com)
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