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February 27 2014

NASA's New Photo of North Korea

Any international readers interested in North Korea would probably come across at least once this famous photo of Korean peninsula from NASA demonstrating a stark difference in the light emission of two Koreas at nighttime. NASA finally updated a new satellite image and it is ‘even more dramatic than the monochrome NASA satellite image of old', writes North Korea Tech blog. The blog also introduces a video version of the image which shows North Korea in context with the rest of East Asia. 

February 20 2014

Ethnic North Korean Schools in Japan Face Ever-Hostile Situation

Koreans living in Japan‘ is a vague word glueing very different groups together under the same umbrella term. Based on their affiliation to North/South Korea and the timing of diaspora (whether it happened before/after the Japanese imperial rule during the World War 2 ear), each sub-group goes by a different name, sharing little similarities. Stark division between them is once again solidified by education system; North Koreans in Japan attend a special ethnic school that resembles ones that are in North Korea. Markus Bell, after visiting one North Korean school in Japan, wrote an extensive report on multiple threats those schools face, with some background information about the concerned ethnic group, as the financial help from their home country has been significantly reduced and also funding from the Japanese government was recently cut off. 

February 18 2014

VIDEO: UN Report on Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea

Horrible stories about North Korea is nothing new. But this may be one of the most extensive reports worth-reading on the country's abysmal human rights condition. A new report by a UN Commission of Inquiry reveals unspeakable crimes against humanity carried out by the North Korean regime against its own people which include systematic murder, torture, rape, forced abortions, deliberate starvation, and even infanticide. The Human Rights Watch post a short video version of the report on its Youtube channel and it seems rapidly gaining traction. 

February 05 2014

North Korea Rips Off Mac OS X

North Korea has released its own operating system, Red Star Linux, which remarkably resembles Apple's Mac OS X. One tech writer calls it ‘basically a Linux distro skinned to look like OS X‘ and if you want to check yourself, visit North Korea Tech blog who explains in detail with many screen shots. 

January 20 2014

South Korea Accused of Rewriting History in High School Textbook

Image by Kopachris, Deviant Art (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

Image by Kopachris, Deviant Art (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0) 

A conservative high school history textbook in South Korea that puts a positive spin on some of the country's most controversial periods of history, such as Japan's colonial rule, has been a source of heated debate for several weeks, with the government being accused of favoring textbooks that support their political beliefs and paint a rosier view of various periods of history.

The textbook by Kyohak Publishing Co has been lambasted not only for its inaccuracy, but for whitewashing the past flaws of certain interest groups. Critics say the sheer volume of errors – over 750 mistakes – in the textbook are serious enough to disqualify it as a legitimate learning tool.

Parents and students protested hard against several schools who have decided to adopt Kyohak's textbook and finally succeeded in revoking the decision. However, the Ministry of Education has offered excuses for the publishers, first by claiming that it was not the final version. Even after it was revealed that Kyohak still has not applied the required adjustments to the textbook and its revised version contained about 350 errors, the ministry again embraced them, saying that it was a trial version. According to local report, one historian said [ko] “in his 22 years as a history teacher, he has never heard of such thing as a ‘textbook trial version’, and the ministry’s outlandish claim renders him speechless.”

The scope [ko] of the errors are wide: misleading descriptions of Japanese imperial rule of Korea, incorrect names of locations on a map, and the false claim that the United States had a colony in the Indochina region. Another noteworthy mistake includes an inaccurate description of President Park Geun-hye’s father, the late military dictator Park Chung-hee: the textbook says Koreans’ average per capital income reached 10,000 US dollars under his rule, when it should be 1,000.

The textbook also claims that the so-called comfort women – young teenagers and women, many of whom were Korean, who were forced into prostitution by the Empire of Japan during World War II to “comfort” the troops – “followed the Japanese army around”, thereby implying that they have voluntarily choose to serve the army for the money. There is even an error suspected to have been lifted from an online blog post.

The New York Times recently added fuel to the fire with an editorial entitled “Politicians and Textbooks” in which the paper accused President Park of downplaying Korean collaboration with Japanese imperialists during Japan's colonization of Korea from 1910 to 1945. The editorial concluded that Park, along with Japanese President Shinzo Abe, are “pushing to have high school history textbooks in their countries rewritten to reflect their political views.” The Korean Foreign Ministry fired right back, saying it will “take necessary steps against the New York Times with regard to the erroneous facts.”

Enraged Koreans commented as below:

Kyohak Publishing’s textbook is only worth as much as the ruling Saenuri party’s campaign flyers. 

After watching Chairman of Kyohak Publishing Yang Cheol-woo’s interview on the JTBC Sohn Suk-hee’s news program, I can totally see how that garbage, pro-Japanese imperialist book was born. He kept claiming their textbook has no flaws and it is the most accurate book available. He even accused other textbooks of being “left-leaning”.

More concerns arose as reports came out [ko] that immediately after Kyohak Publishing’s history textbook had been rejected by parents and students, the government and ruling Saenuri party began pushing to publish it and impose the textbook on a national level. Currently, students, parents and teachers have a say in the textbook selection process, and have a choice among several different books. The political opposition denounced the move [ko] as an attempt to stifle points of view that differ from their own, and commented that a one-size-fits-all textbook system is a favorite of authoritarian regimes who can easily manipulate its content. The most notable cases of the one national textbook system would be North Korea and Russia. 

When they found out that Kyohak’s history textbook had been completely rejected by students, parents and teachers, the proper way to respond is by looking back at their flaws and feeling shameful and apologetic. But how did they react? It is as if they are seeking revenge, they are pushing to switch to a universal textbook system. This is an utter disregard for history and disrespect for the people.

Twitter influencer and historian Jeon Woo-yong (@histopian) tweeted a series of messages regarding this issue:

Even the monarchy of the Joseon Dynasty did not interfere with chroniclers’ works. It is those in power who should be afraid of history, not history that clings on to power. The reason why those in power want to exert control over history is either because they are ashamed to face history, or they dont even bother to make themselves feel unashamed'. 

January 16 2014

BBC's North Korean Broadcast Plan Hit a Snag

It is not the first time BBC's ambitious plan to reach out to one of the world's most reclusive countries has been thwarted. Back in June 2013, BBC World Service’ plan to air programmes in North Korea was curbed by government cuts to its budget. This time, BBC has concluded ‘it is not currently possible’ for them ‘to offer a meaningful, effective and cost-effective service.’ North Korea Tech blog went over each possible hurdle North Korean broadcast service would face, including the jamming issue, regulations and more.

January 07 2014

Users Jeer at North Korean Death-by-Dog Story

A major US media outlet, NBC made one of the most sensational international reports which claimed the North Korean young dictator might have had his uncle devoured by 120 ravenous dogs. Unsurprisingly, the report went viral online, but was later found out to be a confusion caused by social media satire. Numerous jeers and jokes have been made about Western media's speculative reports on the world’s most reclusive nations. Ask A Korean blog founder via Twitter (@AskAKoreanreminded people of the fake voiceover fiasco back in the spring of 2013 when the inter-Korean tension was dangerously heightened.

December 18 2013

China and North Korea: The Inevitable Fate of Jang Song Thaek Under Dictatorship

Kim Jong Il's statue at Pyongyang. Photo by Flickr user: Matt Paish (CC: AT-SA)

Kim Jong Il's statue at Pyongyang. Photo by Flickr user Matt Paish (CC: AT-SA)

The purge and execution of Jang Song Thaek, uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, has stunned the world, in particular its close neighbor and ally China.

Jang, who was in charge of North Korea's economic reform, worked closely with China fomenting economic cooperation between the two countries. In Jang's indictment, one of the accusations he faced was that he sold off the country's precious resources for cheap.

While the Chinese Foreign Ministry calmly claimed that Jang's execution was “an internal affair” for North Korea, Chinese netizens were outraged and took the change to reflect upon the inhumane nature of dictatorship.

On Twitter-likewebsite Sina Weibo, Lian Pang, a columnist and writer, criticized the Foreign Ministry's lack of backbone:

张成泽被枪毙了,某国外交部发言人说“这是朝鲜的内部事务”。好吧,那发展核武器算不算内部事务?朝鲜发生这样残酷的人道灾难,国际社会其他成员都负有道义责任。[…]如此表态只会给外界一种站在邪恶一边的观感。

Jang Song Thaek was executed and some country's foreign spokesperson said, “This is North Korea's internal affair”. OK, what about nuclear development? Is that internal? What is happening in North Korea is a human disaster and every member of international society should bear responsibility. […] The current gesture gives the world the impression that you are standing on the side of evil.

Christophfer Jing, a writer, reviewed Chinese contemporary history and questioned China and North Korea's alliance:

抗美援朝,无数中华儿女长眠异乡(战斗伤亡36万,非战斗伤亡41万,被俘2.1万),难道就为了传承白头山世袭血统金正恩这个80后暴君?朝鲜对中国的战略价值已成反作用,金家三代深谙中国,玩弄的正是中国,杀张成泽涉及与中国资源合作,一个喜怒无常的君主制,一翻脸就是中国的死敌,一有原子弹,投谁?

So many young Chinese had died in the war to support North Korea against the US (360,000 Chinese soldiers died and 410,000 Chinese civilians died; 21,000 kidnapped). We sacrificed all that to help Kim Jung Un, a post-80s generation dictator, to inherit his throne? The strategic value of North Korea to China is now bringing adverse effects. The three generations of Kim have been fooling China. The execution of Jang Song Thaek is related to his cooperation with China. Once the irrational monarch turns into China's enemy, if he has an atomic bomb, where will he aim it?

Xia Shang, a Chinese novelist, extended the criticism towards the dictatorship system:

三胖杀姑父根本不是国家事件,而是打着党名义的金家私事。张成泽作为独裁政权的捍卫者和帮凶,也不过是入瓮之君,死得其所。专制的游戏规则就是没有规则,一切均以一党一己之私利为纲。也别嘲笑白头山血统的说辞,井冈山血统依然伟大光荣正确。

The fatty's execution of his uncle has nothing to do with national interest. He turns the party into a family business. As a supporter of dictatorship, Jang Song Thaek had entrapped himself. He thus deserved to die. The only rule of dictatorship is no rule. The only consideration is the party's interest. Don't laugh at Paektu Mountain's [North Korea] claim for the legitimacy of Kim's bloodline, we have our own bloodline originating in Jinggang Mountain [the Base of the Chinese Communist Party's Red Army].

Xia Shang's subtle criticism of the Chinese Communist Party's dictatorship has resonated with many web users. Below is a selection of netizens’ comments translated by ChinaSmack:

“Top Tomb”: Power destroys people’s humanity. Anyone in the face of someone of an even higher power is no better than a dog. In a society of totalitarian dictatorship, no one has a sense of security!

mdjswc: With such bloody purges, your own end may probably lies ahead! When even your own uncle cannot escape being purged, on whom can you depend? As the old saying goes: One cannot afford to incur the wrath of the public! Kim Jong-un’s own end may be even more miserable!

Nicolai: Sigh, how similar! In such a country, even the second-in-command doesn’t know if he’ll survive to tomorrow, where he can be an honorable guest yesterday and suddenly a prisoner in the blink of an eye, let alone the ordinary citizens.

In fact, the execution of Jang has reminded many netizens of the great purge during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Anonymous Weibo user “Reincarnation-back-to-world” drew the connection explicitly:

朝鲜对张成泽反革命集团进行大清洗,是当年文革的翻版;当年文革中,灭老刘、杀贺龙、整老彭、戮林彪,挑动全国武斗;也是当年苏联大清洗的翻版;斯大林杀害苏联高级军官老百姓上千万!清洗、镇压、独裁分子都这么干!

The purge of anti-revolutionary Jang Song Thaek in North Korea is a repetition of the Cultural Revolution. During the Cultural Revolution, old fellows Liu [Shaoqi], He Long, Peng Dehuai, and Lin Biao were all killed and the whole nation were armed against each other. It is also a repetition of the USSR great purge. Stalin had thousands of senior officials and ordinary people killed. All dictators enjoy purge and repression.

November 15 2013

Kim Jong-Un Found in Hong Kong?

North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-un has an impersonator in Hong Kong. Hong Wrong interviewed the Australian Hong Konger, ‘Howard’, who had performed Kim Jong-un for an Israeli burger chain. Howard likes to wander around in Lan Kwai Fong and takes picture with passer-by so don't be surprise to run into Kim Jong-Un.

Image from the T.V commercial of Israeli burger chain via Hong Wrong.

Image from the T.V commercial of Israeli burger chain via Hong Wrong.

November 12 2013

North Korean Tablet Debuts on eBay, But Under Suspicion of Pirating Angry Birds

North Korea’s recently-launched Android-based tablet, Samjiyon appeared on eBay, listed by a Canadian account with a shipping location of Yanji in China. North Korea Tech blog also reports that the worlds's one of the best-selling applications, Angry Birds, was included on the tablet without proper permissions from the game maker.

October 09 2013

Underwear Bombardment on North Korea?

A Swedish underwear brand launched a ridiculous Ad campaign entitled ‘Weapons of the Mass Seduction’ that pledges to drop 450 pairs of free underwear to the country voted the most in the poll on Oct 31 by an airdrop. North Korea, so far, was placed on top by garnering over 5,500 votes and news has generated many comments in South Korean online venues.

Reposted byniklash niklash

October 07 2013

Korea: Lauching High-Tech Blimps at the Border

South Korean Defense reportedly plans to launch military-purpose high-tech blimps at the disputed maritime border with North Korea next month. Tech blogger Martyn Williams explains in detail.

September 18 2013

North Korea Gets 3D Movies

North Korea Tech wrote about a recent report that North Korean capital Pyongyang newly hosted a movie theater capable of showing 3D movies. The blogger also explains about North Korean leadership's deep interest in motion pictures.

September 11 2013

South Korean Film Questioning Warship Sinking Pulled from Theaters

A documentary film challenging the government's explanation of the Cheonan warship incident has been pulled out by a major cinema chain in South Korea. Not only have the movie directors and the country's film community angrily protested against the decision, but net users also have reacted quickly, calling it a crime against the freedom of expression and even started actively boycotting the cinema chain.

An official movie poster of the Cheonan Project, Fair Use Image

An official movie poster of the Cheonan Project, Fair Use Image

Megabox, the country's one of the largest multiplex chains, decided to stop screening “Project Cheonan” [ko], a controversial film throwing suspicions on whether North Korea was really behind the sinking of the warship named Cheonan, an incident that claimed 46 lives in March 2010. Although the investigation done by South Korean led-international commission concluded a North Korean torpedo sunk the ship, there are still unresolved questions and the movie ‘Project Cheonan’ offers another sets of explanations, such as that the vessel may have been hit by something else, such as a reef, or an unidentified submarine may have been not that of North Koreas.

The movie suffered a rough start from its beginning. South Korean navy officials and families of the Cheonan incident victims had even filed an injunction [ko] to stop its release, arguing the movie defamed the victims by intentionally distorting the facts. The court overruled [ko], however, sentencing that ‘one cannot restrict the freedom of speech for merely raising questions/suspicions'.

Megabox stressed [ko] that they had to withdraw the movie for safety reasons as they received phone calls from unidentified conservative groups who threatened them to stage protests outside the theaters.

This has never happened before in the Korean movie history. Even in China, a movie comically parodying the general secretary of [the Chinese Communist Party] was released. There is certainly political motivation behind the Cheonan Project withdrawal. We must get to the bottom of the problem. (by Min Byung-rok, Chairman of the Movie Critics Association)

Why did Megabox have to pull the Cheonan Project, given conservative groups said they have never blackmailed them? This incident shows how the power of conservatives is deeply rooted in our society and that a tacit pressure to block disclosure of the conservative's errors does exist. There can be no explanation other than that. It is a restriction of cultural freedom in the 21st century.

Knowing the truth about the Cheonan Project makes me so angry. (related link) Those who merely want to know the truth are being labeled as ‘pro-North/North Korean sympathizers’ and need to risk their personal safety to watch a single movie. If that is the world we are living in, it is rational to say it is a fascist society.

‘Suspicions are the start of every conversation'–That was the last statement of the Cheonan movie. When questions cease to be raised, then society is dead. Free the movie Cheonan Project.

More movie theaters have become available for the movie screening [ko] as the controversy made headlines and drew huge public attention to the film. Some net users suggested [ko] the multiplex chain blamed the non-existent conservative groups for their decision made purely based on the movie's low profitability, while some took one step further to boycott the cinema chain.

The Megabox said they cannot reveal the group who pressured them to pull out the movie. (link to a related article [ko]) The only way to help them to come to their sense is by boycotting. Starting today, we will boycott screening of any movie by Megabox.

The withdrawal of the movie Cheonan Project has backfired. One survey shows that 57 percent have responded as ‘they now have intention to watch the movie.’ They opened a can of worms. (link to a related news article)

September 06 2013

100 Million Signature Campaign for Resolution of Japan's ‘Sex Slaves’ Issues

The Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan has launched a new campaign to gather 100 million signatures. Their online petition, in eight different languages, calls on Japanese government to offer an official apology and legal reparations to the victims and asks the international community to join their cause. Over 743 thousands have already joined online.

August 24 2013

Charges Dropped for South Korean Indicted for Retweeting North Korean Messages

Park Jeong-geun, a photographer/activist who was sentenced to 10 months jail term for satirically re-tweeting messages from a North Korean official account, was found not guilty [ko]. A flurry of tweets congratulating him were sent to Park's Twitter account (@seouldecadence), who tweeted after the verdict [ko] that there is a chance the prosecutor may appeal the case. Park added ‘but dont do that if you have any conscience left'.

Suspicions Arose Over North Korean Defector-Turned-Lawmaker

During a parliamentary hearing on the spy agency election interference scandal, Cho Myung-chul, a ruling party lawmaker famous for being the first North Korean defector to take a senior government post in South Korea, went under fire for making snide and offensive remarks discriminating against people from certain province. More criticisms mount as prominent political blogger Impeter disclosed that [ko] Cho has misrepresented facts about his academic records, whether intended or not, and as news came out [ko] that Cho's family, even after Cho's defection, still enjoys affluent life in North Korea.

August 02 2013

An Extensive Review of North Korea's Latest Tablet Computer

The love of tablet computer is universal, and North Korea, one of the world's most reclusive countries, is no exception to this tech trend. North Korea Tech blog wrote a detailed review of the country's latest tablet model based on information he gleaned via extensive email exchanges, phone calls and Skype video chats with a tourist who purchased one.

July 17 2013

South Korea Suspects North Korea Was Behind June Hacking Attack

South Korean investigators suspect North Korea has carried out a series of cyber attacks on June 25 that temporarily hobbled the presidential office websites and major media sites, pointing out the fact that an IP address used in the attack matched one used by North Korea in previous cases. North Korea Tech blog explains in more detail.

June 25 2013

Hacker Attacks on South and North Korea

Hacker collective Anonymous previously announced they will attack North Korean sites on June 25. But it took an unexpected turn as several major South Korean sites, including the website of South Korea's presidential office and those of media organizations, have been temporarily suspended. North Korea Tech explains in detail.

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