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N. Korea’s Zoom-type app Rakwon gains traction

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (Yonhap)
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (Yonhap)
A videoconferencing platform similar to Zoom is widely used in North Korea as the country’s citizens avoid face-to-face meetings just like most people around the world.

According to a report released Thursday by 38 North, a media outlet that specializes in North Korea, the country uses a domestically developed videoconferencing system called Rakwon. The name means “paradise.”

The software was developed a decade ago at Kim Il Sung University, and the news of its existence was first reported in 2012. The platform wasn’t frequently mentioned in North Korea’s news bulletins until 2020, when it became a means for government offices, organizations and enterprises to communicate during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report said Rakwon had been used at least twice for meetings presided over by the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un. The first, held June 23 last year, addressed the rising conflicts between South and North Korea.

The software appears to have also been used during a government meeting around a month later, when North Korean officials discussed the COVID-19 situation in the border city of Kaesong.

The media outlet reported that close-up footage and broadcasts from Korean Central Television revealed that Rakwon was now in widespread use.

“North Korea’s largest industrial enterprises are now linked together and with provincial and central government organizations under the Rakwon network,” it said.

Though Rakwon is the main videoconferencing software used in North Korea, it has not been made available to anybody outside the country. For international meetings, North Korea uses foreign software such as Voov from China’s Tencent, 38 North said.

“The continued development and expansion of North Korea’s telecommunications network is one of the priorities laid out by Kim Jong-un during his speech to the Eighth Party Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea in January,” the report said.

“As it expands and reaches deeper into the country, more organizations and offices will be able to connect and benefit from video-based systems like Rakwon and the national telemedicine and tele-education networks. This will help correct the imbalance in knowledge and expertise between Pyongyang and the provinces.”

By Ko Jun-tae (ko.juntae@heraldcorp.com)
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