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S. Korea blocks access to N. Korea's national Web domain name

  South Korea has blocked its people in the South from accessing Web sites using North Korea's national Web domain name, saying the sites contain "illegal information" under the nation's anti-communism and security laws, officials said Thursday.

   The blockage by the South's state-run Communications Standards Commission came less than a day after an expert said North Korea had renewed the use of its own national Web domain name of ".kp" in an apparent effort to widen public access to its propaganda sites.

   The commission started blocking Web sites using the ".kp" domain from Internet users in the South attempting to view those sites, including an Internet portal with an address of http://www.naenara.com.kp, officials said.

   "We continue to monitor propaganda activities by North Korea throughout the Internet," said a commission official. "The Web sites were briefly accessible (in South Korea) because North Korea used its national domain (.kp) it had not used usually."

   Earlier in the day, Martyn Williams of IT research group IDG said in an e-mail that he found http://www.naenara.com.kp operating over the weekend while http://www.friend.com.kp and http://www.star.edu.kp likely came into use at about the same time.

All of the sites use ".kp" -- assigned to North Korea -- as their final domain names.

   "It was assigned in 2007 and managed by a company based in Germany, but the domain and a handful of sites also managed by the company disappeared in the second half of last year for reasons that are still unclear," he wrote in his online article.

   The re-emergence of the domain name represents "a step-up in the country's Internet presence," Williams said.

   Kim Yong-hyun, a North Korea professor at Seoul's Dongguk University, said, "North Korea seems to be trying to increase public access to its sites as part of its recent online propaganda campaign."

   The sites have separate addresses to allow Internet users to access them. According to Williams, the sites, which include one that represents the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), all have their servers based in the communist country.

   In the e-mail, the Tokyo-based technology expert said the main record for all the .kp names was updated on Jan. 3.

   "So that's the earliest any of these sites could have reappeared," he said.

   In recent months, North Korea has opened accounts at world-famous sites such as Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, drawing wide public attention. But the one on Facebook no longer operates while its Twitter and YouTube accounts were apparently hacked last weekend.

   Naenara at http://www.naenara.com.kp is a multilingual portal site, and http://www.friend.com.kp is mainly an English Web site run by an organ that handles exchanges with other countries. The KCNA has its Web site at http://www.star.edu.kp.

   South Korea bans its citizens from accessing pro-North Korea propaganda sites, citing the technical state of war it has been in with Pyongyang since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce. 

(Yonhap News)

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