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NKorea to get Internet code

by Staff Writers
Seoul (AFP) Aug 17, 2007
North Korea is expected to register an Internet country address this year as the isolated communist state takes cautious steps towards global information technology, an official said Friday.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is likely to approve North Korea's country domain ".kp" at a meeting in Los Angeles starting in October, Suh Jae-Chul, a board member, told AFP.

"ICANN is expected to approve North Korea's country code top level domain as it did recently '.ps' for Palestine and '.eu' for the European Union," Suh said.

"This means that North Korea is becoming more active in engaging in Internet activities," he said.

Professor Kim Young-Soo, an expert on North Korea at Sogang University, said Internet access in the North was still strictly limited.

"Access to the Internet is tightly controlled there as if it were a top secret," he said.

North Korea keeps itself closed to the outside world to prevent so-called spiritual pollution from subverting its hardline socialist system.

TVs and radios are tuned to official channels only. The media is a propaganda tool and the leadership is aware of the Internet's potential to stir up dissent.

It operates its own version of the Internet, a highly censored Intranet that has its own messaging function, Kim Young-Soo said.

It is policed by the Korea Computer Center, North Korea's window on the worldwide web and its leading high-technology research and development hub.

The centre, set up in 1990, acts as the regime's gatekeeper, selecting only approved information and downloading it onto the Intranet.

Content is mostly limited to science and technology and available only to selected research institutes, universities, factories and a few individuals.

A German portal set up a joint venture with North Korea in 2004. But South Korea's Unification Ministry has estimated that only a tight circle of leaders, including Kim Jong-Il and his military henchmen, would have direct access to the Internet.

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