North Korea Controls Chinese Windows XP

Since June 20, a thorough inspection of overseas media in the areas of the North Hamkyung Province has been conducted. The inspection has focused in particular on word processing software attached to computer operating system like Windows XP and video and audio playing programs.

A source from the North Hamkyung Province stated that, “This inspection has been led by the No. 109 Anti-Socialist Inspection Group, consisting of agents from the Provincial National Security Agency, the Provincial People Safety Ministry and the Provincial Prosecutor Office of North Hamkyung Province. It will continue until August 10.”

According to the source, it shows a change to previous general anti-socialist inspections.

Computer programs are a specific target of the inspection including computers set up at schools and public offices. According to North Korean regulations, only self-developed computer programs are allowed to be used. To this end, the North developed and distributed “Red Star” in the last year, an operating system based on Linux.

In reality most computers are installed with Chinese versions of Windows XP and MS-office. Since most computers in North Korea are imported from China, Chinese versions of the software have spread throughout the country. Once the Korean language packages have been installed on the PC, writing a document in Korean language is possible but North Korean authorities are concerned about the use of Chinese versions of word processing programs based on Chinese language OS tools.

Illegally copied software is being sold at very low prices, around three to five Yuan (0.4-0.7 dollars), in Yanji, China.

The Inspection Group is also concentrating on video and audio programs. As desktop and laptop computers are distributed amongst North Korean individuals, there is concern about South Korean films and music being circulated through external hard drives and USB memory sticks.

In addition to that, it is considered unusual that the Provincial Committee of the Party in North Hamkyung Province organized the Joint Inspection Group. Previously, the National Security Agency and People’s Safety Ministry have been responsible for inspections on anti-system or anti-regime inspections. However, when the case authorities felt they needed to implement an intensive examination of border regions, a joint inspection group was organized not by provincial authorities, but by the authorities in Pyongyang. This consists of agents from the Workers’ Party, the National Security Agency, the People’s Safety Ministry, the Central Prosecutor Office, and the Defense Security Command of the People’s Army.

A source commented that, “Since Kim Jong Il visited his mother’s (Kim Jong Suk) hometown late last year, his focus on the region of North Hamkyung Province, of course, including Hoiryeong has increased. Nevertheless, the Provincial Committee of the Party has been concerned about increased anti-socialist elements like smuggling and crossing the border.”

He went on, “At the same time, preparatory tasks are required in the border province prior to the Delegate’s Conference of the Chosun Workers’ Party, due in September; the first time in forty four years.”

In addition, the effect of the inspection will increase with cross checking carried out by the North Hamkyung Provincial Committee of the Party. Authorities will ensure that agents are excluded from inspecting their own residential area and unit as at least 200 come from areas of the North Hamkyung Province.

The source stated that, “The inspection is filled with rumors that will be difficult to evade, even with money and the right family background. Rewards or promotions will be offered to those inspection agents who carry out the most diligent and principled work. Any agents found to be incorrectly carrying out their duty may be sentenced to labor training camp or, in serious situations, reeducation camps.”