July 03, 2015 23:43 UTC

Science & Technology

New Internet Rules Offer Window into North Korea

This could give the outside world a new look into the historically closed country | TECHNOLOGY REPORT

Tweeting in North Korea
Tweeting in North Korea

Multimedia

Play or download an MP3 of this story
From VOA Learning English, this is the Technology Report in Special English.
 
Foreigners in North Korea can now use Twitter, Facebook, and other social media on their mobile phones. A steady flow of tweets and Instagram pictures have been observed since the mobile service provider Koryolink launched its 3G network last week.
 
The move came just weeks after the North Korean government announced that it would let foreigners bring their own mobile phones into the country. Until recently, foreigners were required to leave the devices with customs officials after crossing the border.
 
The changes represent rare reforms in what is considered the most closed country in the world. Some observers say it could be a sign that North Korea's new leader, Kim Jong Un, is open to easing official restrictions.
 
Martyn Williams operates the North Korea Tech blog. He told VOA that the changes could create a hole in the wall of censorship that keeps out almost all foreign information.
 
"Every time that new technology is adopted, especially in authoritarian countries, when you look back, you'll be able to see that it was another nail in the coffin of censorship. It was another crack in the wall, so to speak."
 
The new mobile Internet service will only be available to the small number of foreigners in North Korea.
 
Martyn Williams says the service could change the way foreign media report on North Korea. He says having an Internet connection on a camera-equipped mobile phone means reporters can avoid some of the official restrictions.
 
"It gives reporters the ability to take a picture and to send the picture immediately. And then that means that once the picture is gone, even if someone comes up and says you can't take that picture, you have to delete it. You can turn around and say 'I'm sorry, but it's already sent.' Or you can delete it, but you know that it's already gone."
 
David Slatter works in Seoul as a writer for the website NKNews.org. He admits that reporters may be able to publish some images without the approval of the North Korean government. But he says their effect may be limited.
 
"At the moment, it seems very interesting. But in a few months, I do question how much will these photos really be covered if we just have the same handful of 10-11 people inside Pyongyang tweeting about their lunch."
 
Gareth Johnson directs Young Pioneer Tours, which takes foreigners on trips to North Korea. He believes that these ordinary pictures could prove to be helpful.
 
"In my mind, one fairly positive thing that is going to happen is people are going to see it less as a freak show.
 
China's official Xinhua news agency says the Koryolink SIM card will cost $200. Data will cost an additional $200 for 2 gigabytes.
This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Learn with The News

  • Audio Things You (Probably) Don’t Know About the 4th of July

    Sure, you know Americans celebrate their Independence Day on the fourth day of July. But do you know they have the wrong date? Or where they get all those fireworks? Hint: not from the UK. More

  • Video France's 'Freedom Frigate' to Celebrate 4th of July

    A warship from France that came to the United States 235 years ago became a sign of friendship between the two countries. The French ship traveled across the Atlantic Ocean to help defeat the British during the American revolutionary war. Now a full-scale replica has been making that same trip. More

  • Video Japanese-Americans Remember End of World War II

    VOA goes to a gathering of old men who served in the American military during the war. They fought against Japan while their families were being detained in internment camps in the US. “I…felt very strongly that we needed to show that we were patriotic Americans.” | As It Is More

  • Audio Chinese Children Seeking a Happy Ending

    Repeated cases of child abuse in China have shocked the country. They also have led to more protection of children’s rights. But child welfare activists say the government and private groups need to do more to stop neglect and violence against children. More

  • Tunisia Attack

    Audio Tunisia Detains 12 in Connection with Hotel Attacks

    Also in the news today, an Afghan court is canceling death sentences given to four men for a mob killing of a woman; At least 36 dead in Philippines boat accident, and dozens remain missing; and the United States and Japan will face each other again in the Women’s World Cup final this Sunday. More

Featured Stories

  • Audio Independence Day

    Independence Day is a huge celebration in the United States. People celebrate by having parades and picnics and usually end the day with fireworks. So what do some of these words mean? More

  • Video The Diamond Lens by Fitz-James O'Brien, Part One

    This story by a little-known American writer tells of a young man with a strong desire. He wants to learn how to use a microscope to see a tiny world. He tries to talk with a ghost to learn a secret from the inventor of the microscope. What will happen when he tries to build his own microscope? More

  • South Korea Film Terminator Genisys

    Video Demons, Male Dancers and Dinosaurs at Theaters Everywhere

    Arnold Schwarzenegger returns as the Terminator and Channing Tatum reprises his role as stripper Magic Mike. But there are also scary movies about demon children, comedies with a talking teddy bear and a marijuana-smoking secret agent; and a documentary about the late British singer Amy Winehouse. More

  • Audio Sweet Potatoes as Medicine

    Researchers have helped to reduce a major health problem with a simple food – the orange sweet potato. A program created to help farmers grow the crop has unexpected and healthy results. Some reports say this is the first time an agricultural program has had a major effect on health. More

  • Video Robots Ready to Work in Restaurants

    For many years, machines have been doing work that people once did, including some difficult jobs. Search and rescue operations employ high technology robots. But there is another area that may soon take jobs traditionally held by human beings: the restaurant industry. More

Practice Your Writing

Confessions of an English Learner
Confessions of an English Learner blog

Tell us About Our Programs