Why Web Design Matters for North Korea

A revamped design breathes new life into one of the world’s online views of North Korea.

The flag of North Korea is portrayed in a photo of a “card stunt” during the Arirang Mass Games in a screen capture from http://www.korea-dpr.com.

This new one is not actually the official website of the DPRK—that’s naenara.com.kp, which exhibits credentials as the official portal of North Korea by its possession of the top-level domain “.kp” that was officially granted to North Korea in 2007 by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (although the use of the commercial domain signifier “.com” within the URL is curious, it has nothing to do with where the site is actually hosted). “Naenara” means, roughly, “my country.”

Korea-dpr.com, on the other hand, has the familiar “dot-com” ending to it and is hosted on a Spanish server, making it clear that it does not represent a direct connection to North Korea. In fact, the site is run by the Korean Friendship Association, which is headed up by a Spaniard but operated under the auspices of the DPRK’s Committee for Cultural Continue reading

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Escape Art and Propaganda: Part I

In all of the novels that I have read about dystopias, art and literature always suffer a blow in some way. So, having grown up in a post-Cold War society that has taught me to associate its remnants with the dystopias of the literature required for a trimester of high school English, I wondered in what ways art and literature may be restrained in North Korea. Looking for signs of self-expression, I came across the artist Song Byeok, a former propaganda artist who defected from North Korea and continues to produce art in South Korea. In Paul Ferguson’s CNN article on the success of Song’s exhibition this past winter, I learned that, despite being a full member of the communist party of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Song Byeok also suffered from the food shortages and famines of the late twentieth century, which forced him to cross the Tumen River in search of food in China. In need of food, he and his father attempted to cross the river together. Unfortunately, his father drowned in the act. Though a devoted party member who openly praised the North Korean people and culture as superior, Song still faced confinement in a North Korean detention center after authorities caught him searching the river for his father’s body. Not receiving understanding from those who had captured him after the death of his father, Song decided to defect. Continue reading

Different Ways of Seeing North Korea

Chinese president Hu Jintao (right) speaks with Kim Jong Il in May 2010. Photo credit Korean Central News Agency, via The Guardian News.

What sound does a dog make?

This is a question that we probably don’t think too much about after elementary school. In English, the answer is bow wow, or maybe woof woof, depending on the size of the dog you choose to imagine, or the state you grew up in. To most English speakers, these answers are pretty obvious, and restricted in their range of responses.

But in France, dogs go ouah ouah. In Swedish: bjäbb bjäbb. In Japanese: wan wan. In Greek: gav gav. In Italian: bau bau. And in Korean: mung mung.

To people from other countries, the sound of a dog barking is heard differently, and it is as hard for them to hear bow wow in a dog’s bark as it is for us to hear bjäbb bjäbb. I’ve heard Koreans laugh out loud at the thought that a dog says bow wow, just as I’ve heard English speakers laugh at the idea of a dog saying mung mung. Continue reading

The Associated Press’s Newest Bureau

Pictures from North Korea:

A North Korean shovels snow at the foot of Mt. Paekdu on April 3, 2012. Photo credit David Guttenfelder/AP.

 

The Associated Press opened their first full news bureau in North Korea in January. This is tremendously exciting to all of us DPRK-watchers who want more, more, more news coming out of the country, and I think it’s partially responsible for the sustained higher media profile of North Korea since Kim Jong Il’s death.

The bureau operates out of Pyongyang. The official opening was planned for December 2011, but the news of Kim Jong-Il’s death broke just as Tom Curley and Kathleen Carroll, respectively AP’s president and executive editor, arrived in the capital city. Everything was postponed for the mourning period, and the official opening of the bureau itself was put off until January 16th. Still, the staffers in Pyongyang—already set up to operate—got straight to work covering the story of Kim Jong Il’s death.

Two North Korean journalists staff the AP bureau full-time; the Korean Central News Agency (the only North Korean news outlet) pledges full cooperation with the AP. This is pretty standard operating procedure for the AP, but it’s very interesting in the news-strangled case of North Korea to hear that some of the stories the AP produces will be developed by North Koreans. However, most of the news stories on AP’s site are produced by Western writers based in Seoul or the US or even Sweden.

The two North Korean journalists are supervised by the AP’s bureau chief for the Korean peninsula, Jean Lee, who makes frequent visits to Pyongyang from her base of operations in Seoul. The AP’s chief Asia photographer, David Guttenfelder, also plays a major role, producing many exceptional photos. These two account for the main coverage accreditation. Continue reading

In the News – AusAID On The Road In DPR Korea

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In the News – AusAID On The Road In DPR Korea

Australian aid officials recently went on a field mission to Wonsan, Hamhung and Nampo port to monitor Australian assistance to women and children through WFP in DPR Korea.

The mission visited a pediatric ward and a private household in Wonsan city before overseeing the arrival of Australian funded soya beans at Nampo port.

One third of all Korean children under 5 are suffering from under nutrition, mainly caused by insufficient food and lack of protein. Soya beans are a key ingredient for ‘Super Cereal Corn Soya Milk Blend’, which is distributed to children and pregnant and breastfeeding women to combat hunger.

The impact of AusAID’s contribution to the WFP’s operation ‘Emergency Assistance to Vulnerable groups in DPRK’ is significant, with almost 2.5 million children and women in DPRK benefitting from Australian support throughout the life of the operation. Australia has provided over US$7.5 million to WFP’s current DPRK operation.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – N.Korea ‘Spent Enough on Nukes to Buy Food for 8 Years’

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In the News – N.Korea ‘Spent Enough on Nukes to Buy Food for 8 Years’

Chronically hard-up North Korea has spent a total of US$6.58 billion on nuclear weapons development and now has a dozen bombs, including three uranium weapons, a South Korean expert claims. The expert, who requested anonymity, said the money would have been enough to buy 1,940 tons of corn from China or eight year’s worth of rations for the North Korean people.

Since the 1980s, North Korea spent $2.01 billion on building nuclear facilities including those in Yongbyon, $310 million on related research, $2.72 billion to operate the facilities, $1.34 billion to develop nuclear weapons, and $200 million on nuclear tests, he claimed.

North Korea says it operates 2,000 uranium-enrichment centrifuges. If that is true, it would be able to produce 40 kg of highly enriched uranium per year. Since it takes 15 to 25 kg of uranium to produce one nuclear weapon, North Korea may have developed one to two uranium bombs a year, the expert explained.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – U.S. pressing N. Korea to address human rights: State Dept.

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In the News – U.S. pressing N. Korea to address human rights: State Dept.

By Lee Chi-dong
WASHINGTON, May 1 (Yonhap) — The United States government said Tuesday that it places a priority on addressing North Korea’s human rights abuse.

“The United States remains deeply concerned about the human rights situation in the DPRK (North Korea), including forced labor camps,” the State Department said in a press release.

“Promoting human rights is a key component of our policy toward North Korea, and how the DPRK addresses human rights will have a significant impact on the prospects for closer U.S.-DPRK ties.”

The department said the U.S. raised human rights issues in a series of high-level talks with the North on ways to restart nuclear talks.

An estimated 150,000 to 200,000 North Koreans are incarcerated in Soviet-style gulags, according to activists.

 

Original article can be found here.

Love Across Borders

Have you ever fallen in love? Not the kind where you want to be with someone every minute of the day, but the kind where you would wait for that person every minute of the day. Perhaps, people experience these feelings more often as they move farther apart chasing after dreams or journeying in search of themselves in the transnational world we inhabit. But Pham Ngoc Canh, a man from Vietnam, had fallen in love with a woman he had met when he had studied chemistry as a university student. As Mr. Canh reminisces about his sweetheart, he recalls that he first caught a glimpse of her through a laboratory door. Even in that moment, he had wished to marry her, but something beyond his control kept them from being together for thirty years.

  Continue reading

In the News – U.S. warns N. Korea not to conduct hostile acts

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In the News – U.S. warns N. Korea not to conduct hostile acts

By Lee Chi-dong
WASHINGTON, April 24 (Yonhap) — Amid growing worries that North Korea may soon carry out a nuclear test or launch attacks on South Korea, the U.S. urged Pyongyang Tuesday to use its energy and resources instead to improve the livelihood of its people.

“We strongly suggest that the North Koreans refrain from engaging in any other — any more hostile or provocative actions,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters.

He reiterated Washington’s concern for the North’s people in need.

The North Korean leadership does “nothing to help the North Korean people, many of whom are starving because of the predilection of the North Korean regime to spend the money it has on weapons systems rather than food and economic development,” added Carney.

Media reports based on unidentified intelligence sources suggest that the North may have almost completed preparations for another underground nuclear experiment.

It has also threatened to carry out “special military actions” against the South.

“No launching, no testing, no nothing if you want to have a better relationship with the international community,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said at a press briefing. “All of these are provocations. All of them take the DPRK in the wrong direction.”

The DPRK is the acronym for the communist nation’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

She emphasized that Washington has lost trust in Pyongyang’s commitment to dialogue, especially since its rocket launch in April.

“Unfortunately, now we’re going backwards,” she said. “So it’s really up to the DPRK to demonstrate that it wants a better relationship with all of us and that it wants to put its energy into peace and stability and taking care of its people, rather than expensive weapons.”

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – American web designer shocked his latest theme was used by North Korea

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In the News – American web designer shocked his latest theme was used by North Korea 

North Korea Website

An official website promotes the culture and society of North Korea — and it was designed with a $15 template created by a South Californian designer.

North Korea Website old.JPG

The old version of the North Korean website, prior to a recent update with a flashy new design.

Robert Westmore of Southern California designs websites for a living — but he was shocked to learn that he had designed a new homepage for the reclusive North Korean regime.

“I had no idea,” he told FoxNews.com in an interview. “Honestly, I didn’t even know North Korea had a website.”

While the notorious totalitarian government continues to spend hundreds of millions on failed rocket launches, North Korea skimps in other areas, notably web design. Indeed the country spent just $15 redesigning its national homepage, korea-dpr.com — a fact accidentally discovered by an unsuspecting college student. Continue reading

Dinner at Pyongyang Restaurant at Seven?

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – an area renowned for isolation, shrouding itself in mystery – runs a chain of restaurants throughout Asia. Named after North Korea’s capital city, the restaurants, originally conceived to entice travelling South Korean businessmen hungry for Korean classics like kimchi or northern specialties like Pyongyang cold noodles or dangogi, have emerged in areas near the China-North Korean border, Bangkok, Phnom Penh, Jakarta, and, most recently, Amsterdam. In the words of Australian journalist Sebastian Strangio, who enjoyed a meal at the Pyongyang restaurant in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, the restaurant is brimming with curious customers, an overwhelming majority of which is South Korean. At Pyongyang Restaurant, customers can get an intriguing view of the lifestyles of North Koreans allowed to work outside of the borders of the DPRK. Continue reading

North Korean Defectors in the United States

Image representing face of refugees from Eritrea

Officially back on campus, I decided to get involved with Yale’s branch of THiNK, There’s Hope in North Korea, once again. Thinking back to my previous year as a volunteer for the organization, I remembered that we had been fortunate enough to hear the story of a North Korean defector now living in America. She had described how she had tried to defect from North Korea on more than one occasion. After the first attempt, she, her brother, and mother had been captured and sent to a detention center where they had been tortured. After she had one day escaped, she started a new life in the United States. Unfortunately, I do not remember enough of her story to form a narrative of her personal journey to America, whether or not she spent a lot of time in a third country or in South Korea before coming here. I only remember that she occasionally shares her experiences with others in the same way that she had for us undergraduate students. Continue reading

In the News – King urges N. Korea to stop punishing repatriated defectors

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In the News – King urges N. Korea to stop punishing repatriated defectors

WASHINGTON, March 13 (Yonhap) — The U.S. special envoy on North Korean human rights issues demanded in this week’s U.N. meeting that Pyongyang stop punishing forcefully repatriated defectors.

Robert King, attending a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on Tuesday (local time), shared “deep concerns” about the plight of refugees and asylum seekers from the North, according to a transcript of his remarks released by the State Department
“We urge the DPRK to end the punishment and imprisonment of North Koreans who have sought asylum abroad, as well as their family members,” he said. The DPRK stands for the North’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

A growing number of North Koreans cross the border into China, fleeing their authoritarian and perennially hungry homeland. Beijing, a key communist ally of Pyongyang, has a firm policy of sending them back.

King also called for Pyongyang to allow a visit by Marzuki Darusman, the U.N. special rapporteur for human rights in North Korea. The secretive nation is accused of oppressing many of its 24 million people.

“We hope the DPRK will work with Mr. Darusman, and recognize the benefits of cooperating with the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and thematic special rapporteurs,” King said. “The DPRK could use this opportunity to obtain valuable assistance from international human rights mechanisms. We urge the DPRK to allow the special rapporteur to visit the country and fulfill his mandate to observe and assess the human rights situation.”

He stressed the importance of resuming inter-Korean dialogue and the reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.

“We appreciate the modest progress between DPRK officials and the American Red Cross on family reunions between Korean-Americans and family members in the DPRK, but we seek greater progress in this area,” King said.

Original article can be found here.

In the News – N. Korea to kick off Arirang Festival in April

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In the News – N. Korea to kick off Arirang Festival in April

SEOUL, Feb. 12 (Yonhap) — North Korea will start its massive dance and gymnastics extravaganza in April to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il-sung, the nation’s founder and new leader Kim Jong-un’s grandfather, a U.S.-based travel agency said Sunday.

According to New Tours Korea, the U.S.-based travel agency that specializes in guided tours to North Korea, the Arirang Mass Game will be held from April 10 to May 1 and from August 1 until Sept. 15.  Continue reading