December 21, 2014 18:37 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

  • Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, and U.S. President Obama participate in a welcome ceremony for President Obama at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

    Audio Is China Starting to Live its Dream?

    Trust in the American dream may be disappearing. But halfway around the world, a new dream has been gaining strength -- the Chinese dream. To be exact: President Xi Jinping’s Chinese dream. But, what is the Chinese dream? And how has President Xi started to make his dream for the country a reality? More

  • Audio I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas

    Music fills the air. Colorful lights shine brightly in windows. Children and adults open gifts from loved ones and friends. These are all Christmas traditions. Another tradition is snow. In many places, a blanket of clean white snow covers the ground on Christmas Day, making it a "White Christmas." More

  • FILE - A Muslim woman releases a dove as a symbol of peace during a rally against the Islamic State group in Jakarta, Indonesia, Sept. 5, 2014.

    Audio Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

    Indonesia estimates that more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State militants. That would represent an increase of 50 since last month. Most of the Indonesian fighters do not come directly from their homeland, but from other countries where they may be working More

  • Audio Turkey Rejects Criticism of Raids on Opposition Media

    Turkish officials say recent arrests of more than 20 journalists were made in connection with a plot against the government. But the European Union says Turkey is increasingly becoming more authoritarian. It said the media raids were in conflict with European values. More

  • US Cuba

    Audio Obama Moves to Normalize Relations with Cuba

    President Barack Obama announced a major change in United States’ policy toward Cuba this week. He said he wants Congress to ease more than 50 years of U.S. sanctions against the island nation. And he said the two nations should once again formally recognize one another. More

Featured Stories

  • Video Music Shows in Private Homes Gain Popularity

    Attending a live musical performance, be it in a huge arena or a small cafe, is an exciting experience. But here in the U.S., a very different kind of performance is gaining popularity: house concerts. “There's just a totally unique experience as opposed to playing like a coffee shop or a bar." More

  • Lee Surrenders to Grant at Appomatox

    Audio Southern General Robert E. Lee Surrenders at Appomattox

    General Robert E. Lee’s military skill and intelligence helped extend the war between the states. But even his skill could not save the South from the industrial power of the North and its mighty armies -- armies that were better-fed and better-equipped. On Sunday, August 9, Lee surrendered. More

  • Uganda Playground for Disabled Children

    Audio Helping Uganda’s Disabled Children Play

    You may think that all children have freedom to play. But for children who look differently from others or have physical disabilities, the idea of play can seem far away. An organization in Uganda is seeking to change that. Read on to learn words needed to talk about this sometimes difficult topic. More

  • A microneedle used to inject glaucoma medications into the eye is shown next to a liquid drop from a conventional eye dropper. (Georgia Tech Photo: Gary Meek

    Audio Tiny Needles Treat Eye Disease

    Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness around the world. In the United States, more than two million people suffer from the disease. Now, researchers are developing very small needles that may offer a more effective and painless treatment for glaucoma and other eye diseases. More

  • The National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement in Las Vegas

    Audio Mob Museum Tells About the Mafia in America

    The U.S. government has long used public money to fight organized crime. Now, public money is also paying for a museum in Las Vegas to tell about "The Mob,” and not everyone is happy about that. But some say it helps the local economy by bringing people to a part of Las Vegas that few visit. More

Practice Your Writing

Confessions of an English Learner BlogConfessions of an English Learner Blog

Tell us About Our Programs