|▲ A boy playing internet games in the internet cafe of Chongjin|
Pictures of the “Information Technology Store,” also known as “internet café” in other parts of the world and the “study guide” used by the Party members and workers to control circulation of South Korean soap opera DVDs were revealed to the public for the first time.
Rescue! The North Korean People Urgent Action Network (RENK), a Japanese North Korean human rights NGO and Network for North Korean Democracy and Human Rights (NKnet) together held a press conference and revealed three pictures of “Information Technology Store,” and a study guide with the title, “About Completely Destroying Enemies’ Maneuvers to Spread Conspicuous Life Style.”
The pictures and documents revealed at the conference were obtained by Kim Man Chul (pseudo name), the same staff of RENK who took pictures of Japanese food aid sold in the open markets in North Korea in May. It was known that pictures Kim provided RENK were taken by not himself but others inside North Korea.
Existence of Internet Café in North Korea Not Connected to the Outside World
The revealed pictures contain scenes of outside of the store that says, “Information Technology Store,” inside of the store and the boys playing computer games. This internet café is located in Chungjin, North Korea.
Han Kihong, director of NKnet stated, “The “Information Technology Store” is similar to an internet café, and computer classes are also provided at the price of 20,000won per month (average monthly wage of a worker is 2,500~3,000won). It is known that internet connection is good for computer games and email but only connects within North Korea, and the connection does not reach to outside information.”
▲ The door of the internet cafe of Chongjin
▲ Inside of the internet cafe
Mr. Han said, “The “Information Technology Store” has state permission and operate as individual business or small enterprise. Since the price is so expensive, common people would not be able to enter.”
“The computers in the “Information Technology Store” are used computers brought in from China but due to the severe energy situation, in case electricity is cut off, it has its own electricity generator,” added Mr. Han.
The “study guide” presented to the reporters contained critical writings that characterizes circulation of South Korean soap opera DVDs, music CDs, or radio broadcastings as unsound and demoralizing and ways to fight against such conspicuous life style.
Appeasement Outside, Stricter Control of the People Inside
Mr. Han explained, “Recently there have been presuppositions that North Korea pursues appeasement outside and reformation inside thanks as the result of the frequent inter-Korean talks. However, this document (study guide) is the evidence that North Korean government is strengthening the level of control of the people from the outside world.”
This “study guide” also include criticism on Radio Free Asia (RFA) broadcastings, which states, “It (RFA) is a kind of cultural interference of the US to invade and dominate Asia” and showed how much it is alert about RFA’s influence.
About this kind of phenomenon, Mr. Han said, “Until 2000, social and educational broadcasting of KBS were popular among the North Korean people, now they trust FRA much more as reliable news source.”
The study guide also emphasizes importance of fighting against outside influence in every parts of living including hair style, manner of greetings, and eating habits. The government of North Korea is ultimately trying to strengthen internal control.
Lee Young Hwa, director of RENK, criticized the North Korea government at the conference saying, “Kim Jong Il’s conspicuity of controlling hair style and eating habits of the people who are starving to death is a maneuver that must be completely destroyed.”