Rich North Koreans Are Using the Internet for Facebook and Porn

Top-level North Koreans are able to access the internet and use it to browse Facebook, watch porn and do other common online activities, a new report has found.

Threat intelligence company Recorded Future partnered with nonprofit Team Cymru to run a comprehensive study that analyzed how North Koreans use the internet and questioned the implications of such usage in terms of the regime’s plans.

Researchers monitored North Korea’s internet usage between April 1 and July 6, which represented a period of rich data and notable missile launching and testing activities. To begin with, they tracked the online activities of the country’s limited number of internet users, which basically includes anyone who is a “trusted member or family member of the ruling class.”

The study found that these netizens searched the web, browsed online stores, streamed videos, played games and were “actively engaged” in popular social media. One was particularly found to view adult content.

Facebook was the most visited site, followed by Google, Baidu, Instagram, Alibaba, Amazon, Tencent and Apple.

Interestingly, a pattern in their internet usage has also been observed, with the highest activities recorded between 9 a.m. and 8/9 p.m. on weekdays.

For context, ordinary North Koreans are sold mobile devices that access minimal 3G services such as voice and text messaging. These phones are then linked to Koryolink, the local network.

University students, scientists and several government officials, on the other hand, are given access to Kwangmyong, the local intranet, but only on public computers.

The findings debunk the common assumption that North Korea is completely isolated from the rest of the world, a lifestyle imposed by its draconian leadership. While this may be news for many, researchers stressed that a correlation between their internet activity and missile launching or testing is not apparent, at least from the data set collected in the limited time period.

Sheena Chestnut Greitens, an expert on North Korea, told VICE News that the country’s virtual presence — if the report got everything accurate — is something “policymakers should pay attention to.”

Still, the report has shed light on the fact that North Korea is wired, just like the rest of us. As the researchers put it:

“The data reveals that North Korea’s leadership and ruling elite are plugged into modern internet society and are likely aware of the impact that their decisions regarding missile tests, suppression of their population, criminal activities, and more have on the international community. These decisions are not made in isolation nor are they ill-informed as many would believe.”

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