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NK Using Social Networking Sites for Propaganda

Posted August. 19, 2010 13:42,   


A North Korean body handling inter-Korean affairs is using the social networking site Twitter for propaganda targeting South Korea, prompting Seoul to take emergency measures.

○ Uriminzok

The South Korean Unification Ministry said Wednesday that the Web site "Uriminzokkiri" operated by the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, a body under the united front department of the North’s ruling Korean Workers` Party, opened a Twitter account under the user name “Uriminzok (our nation)."

The committee`s homepage announced the opening of its Twitter account through which the North’s messages toward the South were sent. One warned that the South will “pay the price for its reckless military acts.”

The Uriminzok account has attracted some 5,000 followers in six days after opening, providing them with the North’s propaganda messages real-time via the Internet or on smartphones.

South Korea in 2004 blocked its populace from accessing the Uriminzokkiri site but South Koreans can access the North’s Twitter account since entry into a specific account cannot be blocked.

○ Blocking Pyongyang’s Internet propaganda

Seoul believes Pyongyang is conducting propaganda and agitation activities toward the South by linking Urimonzokkiri to Twitter and YouTube.

Unification Ministry spokesman Lee Jong-joo said the ministry has asked the (South) Korea Communications Commission to verify if the Twitter and YouTube accounts in question are North Korea’s. The ministry is also studying how to apply relevant laws to South Koreans’ communication with the North through such sites.

Lee asked South Korean Internet users to be careful because posting messages or communicating with the North through the accounts could violate South Korean law.

Seoul is considering methods to prevent South Korean Twitter users from following the Twitter account if it turns out to be North Korean. A dispute could arise, however, over whether the South can consider posting simple messages as "communicating" with the North and punish South Koreans for that.

○ US cynical over propaganda attempts

In Washington, State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said Tuesday that the U.S. welcomes North Korea to the social media forums, but added cynical comments about Pyongyang’s new propaganda attempts.

“We use Twitter to connect, to inform, and to debate,” he wrote on his Twitter account. “The North Korean government has joined Twitter, but is it prepared to allow its citizens to be connected as well?”

He asked if Pyongyang`s joining Twitter is aimed at propagandizing its regime.

“The Hermit Kingdom will not change overnight, but technology once introduced can`t be shut down. Just ask Iran,” Crowley said in the last of his three Twitter messages on the subject. He was referring to anti-government demonstrators in Iran using Twitter and other social networking sites to inform the world about the mass rallies last year despite Tehran’s attempt to control them.

kyle@donga.com triplets@donga.com