November 09, 2015 10:06
North Koreans are increasingly taking to social media, be it in an official capacity to spread propaganda or to communicate with the outside world away from prying eyes.
Last week, the North's official Instagram account, posted photos of nation founder Kim Il-sung in hanbok or traditional Korean dress, as well as pictures of ordinary North Koreans roller skating in Pyongyang.
The North has embraced social media since Kim Jong-un came to power, bolstering the number of cyber warfare experts to 6,000. According to the Defense Ministry, there were 162 pro-North Korean websites and 1,622 social media accounts supporting Pyongyang as of July 2014.
North Korea discriminates between locals and foreigners when it comes to Internet use. One foreigner who visited North Korea said a USIM chip for the Koryo Link 3G service enables connection to the Internet but costs a staggering US$5 for a 30-minute connection.
Fervent foreign supporters of the regime are not put off. Shin Eun-mi, a Korean-American woman who embarked on a bizarre stage tour of South Korea extolling the regime after visiting Pyongyang on a package tour, has been back to Pyongyang.
On Sept. 10, Shin posted photos on Facebook of the parade marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Workers Party.
"North Korea lets foreigners use the Internet to earn hard currency and because they can be a good marketing tool to promote the regime," one researcher at a state-run institute said.
But ordinary North Koreas are barred from using social media. The way around that is for defectors here to buy mobile phones and set them to roaming mode and then send them to the North by courier.
In Sinuiju, Hyesan and Hoeryong near the Chinese border, it is not only possible to communicate by phone but also to use messenger services and send photos, according to a source.
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