New research reveals realities of going online in North Korea
New report by the South Korean-based human rights organisation People for the Successful Reunification of Korea (Pscore) has detailed the pervasive surveillance and monitoring of the limited internet connections in North Korea. For 25 million North Koreans, the internet is an impossibility.
A new report by the South Korean-based human rights organisation People for the Successful Reunification of Korea (Pscore) has detailed the pervasive surveillance and monitoring of the limited internet connections in North Korea. The report is based on 24 face-to-face interviews with North Korean defectors and a survey of 158 other North Korean defectors who left the country between 2012 and 2022.
New testimony from defectors reveals that a handful of families with ties to Kim Jong-Un and some foreigners have full access, and a few thousand privileged members, including government officials, researchers and students studying IT, have access to a monitored version. For 25 million North Koreans, the internet is an impossibility.
The report reveals a lengthy process of getting approved to access the internet. Following that, monitors sit next to people browsing and approve their behavior every five minutes. People had one hour of internet access, and they had to get new permission if they wanted more time. It took around two days to get permission from the authorities for internet use, which required approval from several officials.
There has been an increase in the number of digital devices in North Korea over the past decade. Mobile phones may now be owned by 50 to 80 percent of adults. However, the use of these phones is under strict control. A North Korean law from 2020 has been a major step in the country’s efforts to prevent access to information outside the country. The new law imposes severe penalties, including death, on people caught with foreign information.
Pscore’s report makes recommendations to both North Korea and international states. It urges more better connectivity within the country, advising that a censored model is a better last resort if full internet connectivity is not possible. Internet access must be recognised as an international human right.