As you might expect, North Korea restricts internet access for citizens and does not allow any of its web content to be viewed by outsiders. However, suddenly on Tuesday, some American techies got a hold of a full list of North Korea’s websites. Basically what happened was that the Domain Name System (DNS), which is usually set up to reject any requests for access, somehow let someone in when it should have blocked them.
Apparently, someone in a position of power made a mistake which allowed the source-code hosting site GitHub access to all the information in the websites hosted on North Korea’s servers. What did they find?
Apparently, the entirety of North Korean Internet is comprised of twenty-eight websites.
You can see a list of the sites on Reddit. The links may not work, either because North Korea wants them to be inaccessible or because the dictatorship doesn’t have the greatest Internet access even on a good day. Still, enough people got a good look that we have a reasonable idea of what many of the websites were for.
There are some screenshots available, and some of the websites might load if you’re lucky and have plenty of time on your hands to wait for them.
However, instead of the kind of sensitive information one would assume a dangerous dictatorship would want to keep hidden from the world, the twenty-eight websites are all anticlimactically mundane.
Here’s a quick guide to the wonders North Korea is keeping from us.
Buy plane tickets at Air Koryo. Organize a trip for school children at Korea International Youth and Children’s Travel Company.
Voice of Korea will tell you everything you need to know about Chairman Kim Jong Un’s rocket tests and the “great persons of the DPRK” being “remembered abroad.”
4. Water Laws?
Yes, the Maritime Administration of Korea, folks. What a revelation.
5. Religion and well-being
National Unity is here to serve your spiritual needs. Mostly, it seems, with news and information about “The Leader.”
6. Maybe nothing?
The websites are, by and large, extremely basic if they manage to load at all. Clearly, little effort is put into them, either in building or maintenance. It is curious to note that while much emphasis is played on North Korea’s supposed role as a major player on the world stage, no effort has been made to make the few websites it has to resemble traditional news sites. It is unclear what some of the other websites are even for.
Other sites include what looks like some kind of social media site, a website devoted to North Korean film, and sports news.
While most North Korean citizens don‘t have any Internet access at all, these twenty-eight websites may not be an accurate representation of North Korean online activity. There is an intranet system used to connect libraries and other organizations that are totally separate from the Internet proper. Called the “Kwangmyong” it is physically disconnected from the rest of the global web and therefore inaccessible.
This system would probably offer more insight into North Korean’s day to day lives and activities, though we can safely assume it is just as heavily controlled.
Of course, paltry online offerings are the least of your worries if you live in North Korea. The country is infamous for human rights violations, lack of food and healthcare, and rampant corruption. Earlier this year an American student was sentenced to fifteen years hard labor after a one-hour trial for allegedly stealing a government sign. News from the secretive nation usually alternates between the bizarre to the terrifying.
On the one hand, looking through the leaked websites is kind of like watching a strange satire play out in real life.
On the other hand, I’d hate to be the person who was responsible for the data glitch right about now.