August 04, 2015 05:23 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 ASEAN Ministers Expected to Discuss South China Sea

    Early versions of working documents received by VOA and Reuters news agency suggest ministers are working toward a “Declaration of Conduct.” In time, such a document would lead to a “Code of Conduct” outlining measures to avoid conflict in the South China Sea. More

  • Video Yazidis of Sinjar Observe Tragic Anniversary

    Islamic State militants attacked Iraq's Yazidi community one year ago. Thousands were killed or forced to flee their homes. Many others starved or died of thirst as they hid on Sinjar Mountain. Those who were rescued are haunted by the memories of the slaughter and loss of their homelands. More

  • Audio Islamic State’s Media Violence May Hurt the Group

    The group calling itself the Islamic State uses videos to publicize its activities. Some of its horrible acts have turned into big news stories. Some observers blame television stations and newspapers for publicizing the violence. Others say the bloody videos are starting to ruin the group’s image. More

  • Audio Digital Solution Helps Shield Online Activists

    The National Democratic Institute, a non-profit group, says a “live” operating system calls “Tails” is helping pro-democracy activists and others hide their online communications and activities from hostile governments. “Tails” is an acronym for The Amnesic Incognito Live System. More

  • Audio Kerry Hears Concerns About Iran Nuclear Agreement

    Also, economic concerns in Greece, China weigh on share prices; Emergency declared in four areas of Myanmar; President Obama releases rules to cut carbon; and, Malaysian official says plane part from same kind of aircraft as MH370. | In the News More

Featured Stories

  • Audio Let’s Go on a Space Trip!

    You do not need to spend $50 million on a ticket to the moon. Just close your eyes and come with us to a trip into outer space! Learn idioms that will help you navigate the world of space. More

  • Audio Everyday Grammar: May, Might, and Must

    May, Might and Must are modal verbs that cause confusion for some learners. The Everyday Grammar team is on the job, explaining how to use these modals to express how certain, or sure, you are of something. You can also use one of them to tell about your wishes for the future. More

  • Video Feathertop by Nathaniel Hawthorne

    This classic American story features a scarecrow that comes to life. Find out what adventures he has as he looks for love and admiration. His only problem is that he has to keep puffing on the pipe the witch gave him. If he stops - something terrible may happen! More

  • Audio Study Shows How Poverty Could Limit Learning

    Studies have shown that children from poor families have more difficulty in school than other boys and girls. Children with higher socioeconomic roots seem better prepared and perform better on school tests. Now, American researchers may have found a biological reason for that difference. More

  • Audio Study: Smoking May Increase Risk of Schizophrenia

    Researchers reviewed 61 studies from around the world; they discovered cigarette smoking is three times more common among those with schizophrenia who were receiving medical care for the illness for the first time compared to people who did not have the mental disorder. More

Practice Your Writing

Confessions of an English Learner
Confessions of an English Learner blog

Tell us About Our Programs