NORTH KOREA: One Click from the Internet

RYAN LIPPERT WRITES -Simple lack of Internet access is one of the biggest obstacles to solving some of North Korea’s myriad woes.

The hermit state has a computer network of its own, but citizens can only access those sites the government has OK’d. Further, the nation’s computers are designed to discourage opposition to the government. According to The Atlantic’s Olga Khazan, NK computers use a custom-built operating system, called Red Star, that “includes a mandatory readme file about ‘how important it is that the operating system correlates with the country’s values.’”

Shockingly, North Korea can actually provide citizens access to the World Wide Web. “It’s just arrogance, stupidity, and bad decisions that prevent this,” Google’s Eric Schmidt says. “There is literally one command to turn on the Internet.” But the country’s leaders are unlikely to give the green light as doing so could expose citizens to the harsh reality that is their and their countrymen’s lives. This could lead to social upheaval and even the overthrow of Kim Jong Un’s regime.

Schmidt says allowing access to the Internet could improve the North’s struggling economy. But for the country’s political elite, a potentially stronger economy would be trumped by the burden of millions of disillusioned North Koreans demanding a more democratic system.

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