North Korea is a lot like that bully in school who tries to beat up all the little kids and huff and puff at authority because he’s got a terrible home life. He probably eats mayo sandwiches and plays the same PS1 games over and over again. While North Korea rattles its sabers and projects pictures of tranquility as its people starve, they still enjoy one aspect of modern society … the internet. Well, kind of. As you might guess, the North Korean internet doesn’t have Facebook and cute little cat videos. The country even made international headlines when its entire internet went down.
Here we’ll look at how North Korea’s internet differs from our own.
1. Only a few people have the internet
In the U.S., nearly everyone has access to the internet. Grandma uses Facebook to check out pictures of the grandkids and the weird guy down the street secretly owns a multi-million dollar online store selling puppy sweaters. According to CNN.com, there are only about 1,000 known IP addresses in North Korea, and while tons of devices can be hooked up to them, it pales in comparison to the 1.5 billion IP addresses in the U.S. Even if they did have Facebook, the only friend request you’ll get is from Kim Jong-Un and don’t even think about poking him.
2. It’s really tiny
Search “cat hairball” on Google here in the U.S., and you’ll end up with millions of results. Everything from YouTube videos on cleaning to products designed to combat the feline scourge. North Korea has more of an expanded intranet simply called “Bright.” CNN.com also discovered the country only has about 5,500 sites, and people use it primarily for studying and accessing government agencies and information. For example, looking up “cat hairball” on the North Korean web probably gets you two results and both are recipes. The North Korean internet is all about disseminating information and not entertainment. People are so starved for entertainment, they’re smuggling it in from the U.S., according to Wired.com.
3. No Google
The U.S. has a variety of search engines to choose from including Yahoo!, Bing, Google and others. If you find yourself looking for information in North Korea, you’re one-stop-shop for all things Information Dilapidated Superhighway comes from Our Country. It’s like a Firefox search engine, but with far less reach. It’s the only thing they’ve got, so they don’t know any different. It’s great for looking up vacation pictures of Kim Jong-Un, but not for finding Grumpy Cat videos or anything about personal freedom.
4. ‘Real internet’ available for a select few
Your average North Korean doesn’t have the internet. Everyone else has the walled-off restricted internet, but a select trusted few as well as foreigners in the country can access the internet we all know and love. That doesn’t mean they can post whatever they want. According to The Guardian, North Korea blacklisted Instagram after people posted pictures of a fire at a popular hotel. North Korean news never mentioned the fire, but it was reported internationally. No accounts were impacted though.
1. Everything filtered through China
There is no doubt that the internet is monitored here in the U.S. Your boss has access to your browser history, the government intelligence community monitors it, but rarely does it directly impact us. In North Korea, everything is sent through China before going anywhere else. What does that mean? It means don’t say anything bad about the government or the leader in emails or else things could break bad quickly.
North Korea keeps a tight rein on what people see and do on the internet. They despise Wi-Fi out of a fear of allowing people access that shouldn’t. Much like everything else in the country, the North Korean internet is nothing more than a propaganda piece for the government.
Follow Brock on Twitter @brockcooper.