North Korea is always in the spotlight for the wrong reasons, at least most of the time. But the recent revelation of the number of websites operating in that country was a bit different for a change. Apparently, the country has only 28 domain names to serve a population of about 25 million inhabitants.
Surprised? If you know North Korea, that bit of news won’t be surprising at all. The country is the most secretive country in the world. And the ruler is the world’s most absolute totalitarian head of state. His regime controls everything in the country.
This level of paranoia ensures that even the citizens are not allowed to have their own private thoughts. Though, that is not possible, you’d understand the scale of control the regime has over every facet of life if citizens are forced to live and think along guidelines prescribed by the leader and his kitchen cabinet.
In that respect, there is zero freedom of information and zero freedom of expression. The news coming out of the country is regulated by the government. In effect, the government only sends out only favourably news to the wider world.
In the same vein, news coming into the country is heavily censored. There is no privately owned media and the internet is tightly controlled and monitored. In short, everything about the country is practically opaque.
That was why it was intriguing to the rest of the world to know the number of websites actually operating in the country.
How the information got out
You can be sure that for years people outside of North Korea have been trying to get hold of this sort of information without success.
But due to a mistake by one North Korean IT official, an internet researcher, also known as hackers, based in the US was able to ask for the information and got it. The method he used had been tried several times by him and thousands of researchers before without success.
But somehow, something went wrong this time around.
Matt Bryant, the researcher who successfully got the information, just sent a normal DNS server request for information on all domain names ending with .kp. That is the domain for all websites in the country. Apparently, for some reason the system obliged this time around and send the names of the websites with the .kp suffix.
At this point, what everybody is sure about is that some unfortunate techie in North Korea is in a lot of trouble.
Unsurprisingly, all the websites on the list are government controlled and most are dedicated to government propaganda. Some of the websites refused to open because they were not functional anymore. While others were very slow to open according to people who tried them.
One of the website, like rodong.rep.kp is a news website dedicated solely to reporting the activities of the countries rulers and officials.
Opening up the websites would remind you of the times when the internet was very simple. You get the feeling the North Koreans are still living in the past with how simple and unsophisticated the websites are.
Another simple website that might get you attention if you like movies is korfilm com.kp. I think that would be a good place for academics to do a research on the country’s film industry.
So what does this tell the rest of the world about the country? Nothing much really. As most of the stuff posted on the sites do not say anything untoward about the government or the country.
So our collective knowledge of North Korea has increased by only knowing the names of about 30 websites operating in the country.
image credit: motherboard.com; BBC News