North Korea jumps onto Twitter

The secretive nation has started tweeting news

North Korea has established its first official presence on Twitter, the micro-blogging site that's being embraced by governments and an increasing number of world leaders.

Late last week a Twitter account (@uriminzok) was set up by the Uriminzokkiri Web site. The site, whose name means "Our Nation," is the closest thing North Korea has to an official home page, and the site has a link in the upper right hand corner to the new Twitter account. Uriminzokkiri carries news and information and is one of the few Web sites believed to be run from the secretive nation.

The first message was posted to the account on Aug. 12 and declared (in Korean) "The Web site 'Our Nation' is on Twitter."

It was followed by three messages pointing to important documents: a 1997 essay written by defacto leader Kim Jong Il on reunification, the North-South Joint Declaration of June 15, 2000, and the declaration issued after the North-South summit of Oct. 4, 2007. Subsequent updates have pointed to recent news articles.

The messages are posted through Twitter's Web interface.

The account has proved popular and has attracted more than 1,000 followers in its first few days online, but few if any are likely to be reading from inside North Korea. The government keeps a tight control on access to information, and few people are believed to have access to Internet connections that allow links to foreign sites like Twitter.

Access at universities and libraries is largely limited to a domestic intranet service, and the few connections that reach across the border to China are monitored.

North Korea has taken the first steps towards wider use of the Internet with the registration late last year of national Internet addresses. The address, which had been reserved for the country but never used, were put under the control of a Thai-North Korean joint venture company. They are yet to be used.

Several Twitter accounts purporting to be from North Korea have already been set up, including one (@kimjongil) that claims to be the official account of Kim Jong Il. The account drew headlines when it was first spotted but its authenticity is in question, largely because its messages position Kim as an object of ridicule. Another account was launched in the name of the Korea Central News Agency, the country's official news service, but it was believed to be run by a third party and has been suspended.

The Twitter service isn't Uriminzokkiri's first excursion into social media. A YouTube channel was established about a month ago and already includes 71 videos. They appear to be a mixture of original content and North Korean state TV coverage.

Martyn Williams covers Japan and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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