North Korea: Bursting Onto the Social Media Scene, Or Are They?

Julie Marsh
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North Korea has to be one of the most mysterious countries in the world, especially for Americans. The United States has no diplomatic relations with North Korea -- no embassies, no consulates, and no means of authorizing travel into the country or assisting US citizens once they are in North Korea. For its part, the North Korean government strictly controls communications, both within the country and into/out of North Korea. The freewheeling world of social media was utterly foreign, and presumably off-limits, within North Korea -- until now.

North Korea has created a YouTube account, a Twitter profile, and now a Facebook profile and Facebook page too. Next thing we know, Kim Jong-Il will check in on foursquare and become mayor of the Pyongyang McDonald's.

I kid, of course. North Korea isn't allowing its citizens to use social media. Instead, the media outlet Uriminzokkiri is using these channels to spread propaganda.

Personally, I'm surprised it took them so long. The Internet is the ultimate means of spreading information far and wide. North Korea already maintains ironclad control over its internal brainwashing efforts; now it's time to take the word to the rest of the world! Well, at least to those who can read Korean. I haven't the first clue what any of the Uriminzokkiri tweets are talking about, except that they're apparently "anti-Seoul and anti-US," which isn't surprising.

Meanwhile, South Koreans can read the tweets and status updates just fine, except that they're forbidden by law to do so: "Under South Korea's anti-communist Security Law, South Koreans are prohibited from unauthorised communication with North Koreans and offenders can be jailed." South Korea has "blocked direct access to the North's Twitter account," but the Facebook profile and page are still visible.

What's really interesting is that the North Korean government might not actually be behind these social media communications efforts. Forbes reports these comments from a North Korean government official: "The accounts are run by government supporters, not government officials, living in Japan and China, not North Korea. Those social media sites are still banned in North Korea."

In other words, it's not necessarily Uriminzokkiri or the North Korean government putting out these messages, but possibly supporters and sympathizers in other countries.

Which I suppose just goes to show that even when you're dealing with isolationist, communist, nuclear superpower hopefuls, not everyone on the Internet is who they appear to be.

Image via screenshot


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