Posted on 22 August 2011.
For a country known to most of the world as a sea of black surrounded by the nighttime lights of the booming economies of Northeast Asia, North Korea is surprisingly active on the Internet.
North Korea’s slow embrace of the Internet as well as current challenges facing South Korea’s cyber community were discussed in depth during an Aug. 6 panel hosted by the Asian American Journalists Association in Seoul. Nanoomi volunteers helped organize the event and round up interested local journalists, foreign correspondents and those curious about the Internet in the world’s most wired country and arguably one of the world’s least.
The panel, moderated by Steve Herman of VOA, covered the use and challenges faced by both Koreas in the information age.
Martyn Williams from IDG News Service was up first and gave an insightful look into North Korea’s use of the Internet over the past decade and how they are using it now. It was interesting to learn that one of North Korea’s first websites was a gambling site which claimed to be fairer than other sites. He also discussed North Korea’s recent move of opening up the Internet to foreign journalists within North Korea.
I especially liked how Martyn went into detail about when North Korea really started to become active on the Internet and described the different sites plus social networking accounts which North Korea operates. Since most of these sites are blocked here in South Korea, it was great to finally get a look at what modern North Korean websites look like. I was surprised to see that some sites are available in many different languages.
The next presentation was by Myung Seungeun, CEO of TNM. Unfortunately due to personal reasons he was unable to make the event but Cynthia Yoo from Nanoomi did a wonderful job of presenting it on his behalf. The presentation was about censorship of the internet within South Korea and went into detail about the ‘real name’ system which is currently in place here. You can see the presentation and read a full translation here.
After the presentations there was a Q & A session where we were joined by a veteran of the South Korean media scene, Sungkyu Lee, currently CEO of muzalive.com, a Korean music social network.
Lee helped answer questions about Korea’s real name system and portal sites.
I was impressed by the amount of questions that were asked by the members of the audience. There was a lot of interest in the real name system which was linked to a hacking incident a few weeks back.
The attack on South Korean company SK Communications Co., which runs the country’s third most visited portal site, released some 35 million users’ personal data, making it the worst hacking attack in the history of the country of roughly 48 million. South Korea’s real name system, which in effect holds Internet companies responsible for what users say on their websites is viewed by many to be a contributing factor to the severity of the attack. Having this information encourages the telecommunications companies to store users’ personal data for long periods of time to help protect itself from future lawsuits.
Martyn explained that although a lot of these hacking incidents are blamed on North Korea, it is hard to know if this is the truth or not.
It was a casual event held at a great venue, Platoon Kunsthalle in Nonhyun-dong. Platoon is an amazing building made from shipping containers with plenty of space for media, art and other culture related events. They also have a bar and DJ equipment if you need them for your function.
We started off with a barbecue lunch that was beautifully cooked by Elaine Ayo from Yonhap and Ramy Inocencio from CNN International. They did a fantastic job on what was a scorching hot day.
Journalists, bloggers and many others enjoyed the lunch with a drink or two.
It was an event that was pulled off well by all those involved and although I’m not a member of the AAJA myself, I look forward to attending more events like this in the future. It was definitely great to finally see so many faces I had only previously seen as twitter updates!