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[Op-Ed] Web Posts From North Korea

Posted July. 14, 2009 09:13,   


In North Korea, Internet access is available only at a restricted number of organizations and places, including government agencies. The people have no chance to even look at the Internet. Most of North Korea`s propagandistic Web sites are managed by Chochongryon, or the pro-North Korean Residents` League in Japan, pro-Pyongyang groups and North Korea`s spying agencies overseas. The official homepage of the North Korean government, “Naenara,” debuted on the Internet in 1997 and is offered in nine languages, including Korean, English, Chinese and Arabic. Access to the site is restricted in South Korea, the U.S., Japan and China. The site includes North Korean leader Kim Jong Il’s schedules and tourism information on the North, but most of the content is propaganda.

ICANN, which allocates Internet protocol addresses, recognized “.kp” as the official national domain for North Korea in 2007. But Naenara is the only Web site using that domain name. As North Korea borrows Internet connection services from China, no North Korean IPs appear even if an IP address is traced. As North Korea is laundering IP addresses just like it launders money, it is difficult to trace the forces behind the denial-of-access attacks just by tracing IP addresses. The claim that North Korea was not behind the cyber attacks just because its IPs were not used stems from the lack of knowledge of North Korea`s internal situation.

Even if the entire world is linked via the Internet, the North Korean people live in a reclusive country cut off from the international community due to the Kim Jong Il government. The communist regime calls for “our own way” while refraining from external exchanges. North Korea’s organization and capacity for cyber terrorism as shown in the recent DDoS attacks are apparently at a highly advanced level. An institute under the intelligence bureau of the North’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, which South Korean intelligence agency blames as the mastermind of the attacks, has 100 to 200 professionals and researchers highly skilled in computer. Pyongyang spends money lavishly on these projects while letting its people starve.

North Korean defector poet Chang Jin Song, who reportedly worked with a communication unit under the Unification Propaganda Force in North Korea, said, “The Internet posting and penetration center secured 300,000 ID numbers of South Koreans and is conducting a psychological war through Web posts.” This means certain Internet posts on South Korean sites were posted by North Korean hackers to instigate South Koreans. So did any South Koreans take to the streets to demonstrate after reading comments on South Korean Web sites posted by North Korean hackers in candlelight vigils? This is an era in which South Korea must prepare for a North Korean attack via the Internet as well as from land, sea and air.

Editorial Writer Kwon Sun-taek (maypole@donga.com)