23,312,595 (2000) 22,757,275 (2010) 24,457,492 (2011)
Internet Population (Year)
xxx (2000) xxx (2010) xxx (2011)
Broadband Population (Year)
IP Address Allocation (Year) :
Number of IPv4 addresses: 1,024 (2012)
Number of IPv6/48s: xxx
Sangju Park, "Current Status and Open-Door Trend of the Internet in North Korea (Democratic People's Republic of Korea)," KISDI Information Communication Policy, vol.20-15, 2008, English translation by Sunyoung Yang, 2012.
Chanmo Park, "Internet Status," Proceedings of Academic Seminar on Korean Peninsula Internet Infrastructure Development, 2002.9.15. (in Korean)
[English translation is available in Asia Internet History - Book 2 (1990s) Chapter 10 Snapshot.]
Current Status and Open-Door Trend of the Internet in North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea)
Translated from Korean to English by Sunyoung Yang
The development of transportation and communication technologies has been networking the global village like a web while compressing physical space. In particular, the rapid development of the internet has reorganized our era, and has become a crucial requisite of modern life. South Korea has succeeded in building the most advanced internet infrastructure in the world thanks to the timely establishment of the Ministry of Information and Communication, active investments, and policy-making.
The internet was also introduced in North Korea in the early of 1990s and has functioned with highly limiting boundaries in place. The concern of the North Korean government that showing North Korean people the outside world could be a threat to the established order, have prevented the internet from spreading into ordinary life. The North Korean government has strictly controlled internet usage regarding how long people are able to log on, where they can log on, and the contents which they can view, for all of the almost twenty years since it was introduced, while in the meantime, South Koreans have used the internet freely. Restrictive government policy and the low distribution of personal computers are the main reasons checking internet development in North Korea. However, some internal efforts to prepare for the open-door internet have recently been realized. It is worth examining the current status and the open-door trend of the internet in North Korea.
1. Current Status of the Internet
North Korea mainly uses the internet in the form of LAN (Local Area Network) based intranets among major government institutions such as the Academy of Science, the Korean Workers’ Party, Kim Il Sung University, Kim Check Institute of Technology, and the Korea Computer Center. The intranet is linked to through dial-up via telephone offices operated by the Post, Telegram, and Telephone Ministry. While major institutions use leased lines made up of fiber-optic cable and ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line), many individual households still use PPP (Point-to-Point Protocol). The Gwangmyeong Technology Service Center recently built an ISP (Internationally Standardized Profile) networking service using a line leased from the Post, Telegram, and Telephone Ministry.1
Korea Computer Center and related institutes have carried out research and development on LAN through dial-up (PPP) since the middle of the 1990s. Major cities started to be connected through optical networks as of the late 1990s, which enables Pyongyang and local institutions to share information. The nationwide optical network, with a bandwidth of 2.5Gbps, is assumed to have been built by around the fifty-fifth anniversary of the Korean Workers’ Party in October, 2000. The nationwide optical network and the science and technology data search engine “Gwangmyeong”2 developed by the Central Intelligence Agency of Science and Technology have played a role in developing the North Korean intranet.
Silibank.com, a company based in Shenyang in northeast China, and supported by the North Korean government, was established in October, 2001 and started to offer the first commercial e-mail link to North Korea. Silibank gathered and sent emails to North Korea once per day in its early days and has serviced 24 hour email through a leased line between Pyongyang and Shenyang since November, 2003.3 North Korea has expanded its usage of websites from that of simple propaganda purposes to commercial uses in order to boost economic benefits. Servers are usually located abroad, such as in China, Japan, and Europe.
2. Changes of North Korea Regarding the Open-Door Internet
The North Korean government has been moving to connect its intranet to the overseas internet. Most institutions in Pyongyang have been able to access overseas websites via Beijing through a leased line managed by the Post, Telegram, and Telephone Ministry since 2000. North Korea also made an agreement with American company ‘Startec’ to build a leased line offering VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), data, and internet services in North Korea in June, 2000. Science World, a North Korean magazine, published an editorial showing the blueprints for installing a firewall in the intranet. North Korean officials and BIT Computer, a South Korean company, discussed establishing the infrastructure to link to the internet through satellite in 2001. Joining SWIFT4 in November, 2001 also shows the efforts being made by North Korea to prepare to join the international internet network.
Table 1. Trends of Major Projects Representing the Open-Door Internet
Source: Ministry of Unification, South Korea, Weekly Report on North Korea, Vol. 686 (March 18, 2004)
North Korea has been interested in “PC bangs” South Korean-style internet cafés, as an alternative solution for the low distribution of computers. A joint venture between the South Korean IT company Hoonnet and North Korean company Jangsaeng Trading Co. opened the first PC bang in Pyongyang in 2002, where foreigners could access the internet freely. North Korea opened a PC bang connecting only to the North Korean intranet with domestic technology in 2004. ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) approved the Korean Computer Center as managers of the country code top level domain to represent the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), .kp, in September, 2007. North Korea has gradually prepared for the open-door internet—there have been good examples of the efforts of North Korea such as the development of the internet infrastructure and discussions about the standards for distributing Korean domains through Inter-Korea Economic Cooperation.
North Korea has been trying to establish the information management system for the national economy, emphasizing that “effective communication tools can boost the unified government initiatives and guarantee the benefits in production and management.” However, North Korea has not been able to introduce active incentives for internet adoption because of the low distribution of computers and concerns about the opening up of information. Nonetheless, it is worth noting that North Korea has gradually changed toward informatization through efforts such as educating people on the merits of the use and directions regarding how to use email.
 Kyeongmin Ko, “IT Strategies of North Korea,” 2004, Communication Books. (in Korean)