(Photo) North Korea's new smartphone, the "Purunhanul" (Blue Sky).
It is capable of taking photos and videos but is unable to connect to the Internet.


◆Myanmar's Youth Resist with Digital Technology

Kicking down and shooting civilians- Myanmar's security forces have shown no hesitation in using violence. However, even with so many deaths, the young people of the country keep up their resistance. Their weapon is the Internet. They call for demonstrations and civil disobedience on social networking sites and send videos and photos of the military's violence to the world. It is mainly through the "digital resistance" of young people that the rest of the world can know the inside story of Myanmar.

The military, now in control of the country, has been eager to suppress civil resistance by restricting Internet access. On April 2, the military ordered all telecom operators to block Internet access from wireless and mobile devices. In addition, the regime has attempted to detain 100 prominent actresses and models who have sent out anti-military messages on social networking sites, one after another.

◆China shuts down YouTube and Google

The Internet is a formidable enemy to powerful rulers around the world. According to the Internet World Stats (IWS), although China has the most extensive Internet access in the world, the Xi Jinping regime has blocked Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Line, and Google Search (though one may access such sites by using a VPN, a circumvention server). In addition, a law is being prepared to impose a fine of up to 1 million yuan (158,653 USD) for the transmission or spread of false information that disturbs social order or endangers national security.

◆North Korean residents don't even know what the Internet is

Which country has the strictest Internet control in the world? The answer certainly is North Korea. According to the IWS survey, there were only 20,000 Internet users in North Korea on December 31, 2020. That's about less than 0.1% of the population. Next is Western Sahara with 4.6%. South Sudan, a failed state in constant conflict, is at 7.9 %, and Yemen is at 25.9%. The few users in North Korea are likely to be government agencies, research institutes, hacker organizations, and the privileged class, aside from expatriates, international agency personnel and diplomats. Free internet access for the general public is completely impossible.

Regarding this issue, we interviewed a reporting partner who lives in North Korea.

"Internet? I have never heard of it. There is an intranet. It's called Kwangmyoung Net, and it can be accessed at schools, government offices, and labor party organizations. We can read study materials and books, and recently study materials from the central government have been coming through the Kwangmyoung Net instead of in paper form. I've heard that it connects you to foreign information in China."

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that 3.24 million people used cell phones in North Korea last year. A year ago, we obtained the latest smartphones and tried to analyze them. Although they had a variety of unique applications that allowed users to view games, dictionaries, books, etc., the devices could not be linked to foreign communication networks, as the SD card was set up to be incompatible with other devices.

In North Korea, listening to foreign radio broadcasts is still a punishable offence. Even Korean-language newspapers from the neighboring Yanbian District in China are confiscated at the border if you try to bring them into the country. It goes without saying that the Internet is not allowed.

Internet control is a measure of coercive power. So how will Kim Jong-un view the "digital resistance" of Myanmar's youth?


Editor’s notes on North Korean reporters
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