Most of the people, living on earth (or elsewhere like the ISS), don’t know much about North Korea except for what they saw in The Interview.
North Korea isn’t exactly a friendly country either except, maybe, with China. But that isolation doesn’t just extend to diplomatic relations or trade with its neighboring countries or any country for that matter.
In fact, the country has made a mockery of one of the greatest inventions in the history of man. Yes, we’re talking about the internet or the lack thereof in North Korea.
The internet has enabled anyone with a phone connection and a computer (or a smartphone judging by how many people are using it to access the internet) to learn anything, sell anything and watch anything they need,want, or desire.
Of course, that doesn’t apply to those who live in North Korea. Even though North Korea has a working internet infrastructure, the cultural habits of the country are inaccessible to virtually anyone who doesn’t live in North Korea.
But now, with some effort from sites like Gizmodo and Reddit, we know (partly) how the internet works in North Korea.
In fact, we have found a bunch of very interesting websites that can be accessed in North Korea or rather could only be accessed in North Korea until we found them.
A thread that was started on Reddit a couple of days ago linked to a GitHub data dump that ostensibly included a neat little list of websites that were registered with North Korea’s official domain. That is the “.kp”
As indicated before, we (or anybody else for that matter) didn’t know a whole lot about North Korea’s internet manners and customs.
No one knew about the country’s registered domains either.
But that changed a couple of days ago when someone leaked a list of registered websites that had North Korean-registered domains.
The total number of registered websites that were leaked was 28. The instantly became openly available for unsolicited visits.
Perhaps it should be made clear that the list of registered sites seems to be an accidental reveal.
According to a post on GitHub, the leak came to pass when North Korea mistakenly opened up one of its servers that had all the domain name information.
That meant that if a person could get a hold of the website’s address, he/she could visit it. In fact, anyone who had the wherewithals to know where to look and how to access these websites could actually see and analyze the leaked data.
The Github post said that on September 19, 2016, at approximately 10:00 PM (PST), one of North Korea’s top-level nameservers was mistakenly configured to enable global DNS zone transfers.
The post further stated that the accident allowed anyone who performed an AXFR (zone transfer) request to the country’s ns2.kptc.kp nameserver could get a copy of North Korea’s top level DNS data. That was detected by the TL;DR Project which was an effort to attempt zone transfers against all top level domain (TLD) nameservers every two hours and kept a running Github repository with the resulting data.
“This data gives us a better picture of North Korea’s domains and top level DNS.” said the people behind the GitHub post.
Now, the leak resulted in a lot of pages getting leaked to the media. Some of the websites were on quite interesting topics.
One was about travel while the other website was about cooking tips and method. There was also another website which was called something along the lines of friend.com.
Unfortunately, all of the abovementioned websites have been taken down. Luckily, the Reddit community sprung into action again and upload some screenshots of the websites that were leaked.
Gizmodo was also able to take some screenshots before most of them went away into oblivion.
The screenshot below is of a website that is down now but before being taken off, it was identified to be some kind of a social networking site.
Well, who will ever know for sure right?
Another site (you can see the screenshot below) looked like some sort of North Korea maritime homepage.
At the time of writing this post, this website a bit too slow to open. But hey, you can always look the screenshot as many times as you want without having to wait a full two minutes every time you reload the page.
Strangely enough, the website has an English version as well. But as expected, the interface is pretty cluttered and essentially indicates how North Korea’s insulation from the mainstream world has affected the country’s online technology.
The screenshot below will show you a travel website. Not sure who would want to go to North Korea when the political situation is so unstable around the country and of course, you wouldn’t want to go out of North Korea because, as many reports have suggested, you’ll probably get killed or eaten by tigers.
This site too has an English version and allows the users to Login or Register. Of course, these are pretty simple features now but seeing them on a North Korean website just makes them that extra bit special again.
If the travel website in North Korea surprised you then maybe you’ll be shocked to know that there is also a tour-booking website in North Korea.
At the time of writing this post, this website was not accessible. Too bad right?
Not exactly. North Korean websites won’t give you any content you haven’t seen before and can’t get on other mainstream websites on the same subject.
But it’s always fun to know the unknown and North Korean websites, good or ugly, are definitely within the realm of the unknown.
And probably the biggest shock of all is the North Korean University website.
Amazing right? North Korea has universities? Like real ones?
Take a look at the screenshot of this university’s homepage below to see with your own two eyes.
Notably, this website was too available in the English language. One has to wonder though: if North Korea doesn’t want to engage the western world, which is actually the main English speaking world, then why has it bothered with English versions of its important websites.
Looking at the news related to North Korea, it seemed a better choice if North Korea had just made Chinese and Russian versions of their websites.
By the way, the university has a dedicated computer lab and also has indoor swimming pool facilities.
There is also a sport ball page.
And finally, we have a North Korean website that doesn’t have an English version. Again, the layout is pretty primitive and the website loads painfully slowly and in phases.
This site won’t be winning any SEO points from Google on its user friendliness neither on desktop or mobile.
If by chance you love North Korean food then there is also a website about that. Go here.
The site might become accessible at some future date but at the time of writing this post, this site gave the dreaded “ERROR The requested URL could not be retrieved.”
And for those who thought the Kim Jong Un was nothing but a violent, atheist dictator then here is the answer to that: a spiritual guidelines website, if such a site exists that is.
You can check out the site here. Thankfully there is no English version of the site so you won’t have to worry about accidentally getting indoctrinated.
By the looks of the site, our best guess is that it’s talking about the sun, sky, and the mountains.
And now we come to, perhaps, the most relevant of all the sites that were leaked a couple of days ago.
The North Korean news website.
You can access the website by going to this link. The first thing you’ll notice about the site, as with all other North Korean websites ,is that the website isn’t terribly optimized for different screen sizes.
And let’s not even talk about the font size and the basic layout of the page.
There is an English version of the site so if you want to get up to speed with all the latest happenings in North Korea and do check out this news website.
There is also an option of Register and Login .
Be warned though: when you’ll visit the site, you’re likely to see an uncomfortable amount of headlines about Kim Jong Un and nothing else.
And on our second scan through the site, we were able to ascertain that the name of the site is indeed Korean Central News Agency.
The simple fact of life is that entropy will claim us all. In other words, as time passes we will all get older, weaker and a bit sulky as well.
Well, you’re in luck because North Korea also provides you with an elderly website. As in a website for the elderly.
Currently, the website is inaccessible.
And finally, after a hard day’s work, everyone likes a bit of entertainment. Well, Kim Jong Un and his comrades have got your covered with The Pyongyang International Film Festival website.
You can visit the link for the website here.
If you don’t have the money to display your film at the Cannes Film Festival and why not give Pyongyang International Film Festival a shot.
Probably not a good idea if you plan on making a film that goes against the ethos of the country.
The Reddit community can hook you up with a few more screenshots of North Korean websites, but as mentioned before, they look shoddy.
Not to mention that they all look like they were made by the exact same person or team as well. And it doesn’t take a genius to guess that these websites were probably made by the governing body in North Korea.
Truth be told, these North Korean websites, though old, don’t look any creepier than what the rest of the world has to offer.
With that said, these websites are all extremely NOT user-friendly and have a strange feel to them. It is as if every piece of content on these websites if being controlled at the backend by a single organization.
Doug Madory, who is a researcher at Dyn (which is a company that observes and analyzes global web usage), in an interview given to Motherboard said that his company didn’t think there was much in the way of internet resources in North Korea and according to the leaked zone files, his company was right.
Of course, one can’t simply assume that the whole of North Korea would have a total of 28 websites. But it is a safe bet that North Korea’s censored internet does not offer nearly the same quality and variety of content that you are likely to find on the mainstream web.
The quality or rather lack thereof clearly shows why North Korea is one of the most, if not the most, isolated countries in the world.
According to one estimate, the North Korean internet isn’t available to all North Koreans and even those who do have internet facilities only get to experience a simpler version of it that is about 10 percent of the entire internet’s information.
We’ll keep you posted if any more North Korean websites pop up.
Of course, if your government ever tries to serve you a sanitized version of the internet then you can easily bypass that by using a VPN service.