While North Korea has gone to great lengths to stress the importance of localizing production and self-sufficiency, a Daily NK investigation has found that the country uses foreign software in the production of various kinds of publications posted online.  

By analyzing the metadata of documents uploaded to the nojak category on the North Korean website “Korean Books” (www.korean-books.com.kp), Daily NK discovered that they were written using the American word-processing software Microsoft Word (MS Word).

Nojak refers to books that describe the revolutionary socialist theories or statements of Kim Jong Un, Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. This literature is used for education aimed at deifying the country’s leaders. 

Daily NK’s investigation found that Kim Il Sung’s book “On Exposing the Reactionism of the Mutual Defense Treaty between the Republic of Korea and the United States of America” was written in MS Word before being converted into a PDF file with Adobe’s “Acrobat Distiller.” 

Acrobat Distiller is a program that converts files made in other applications to PDF format. 

Another document by Kim Jong Un entitled “Members of the Korean Youth Corps are the True Sons and Daughters of the Socialist Motherland, Let’s Become Young Revolutionaries” was also produced using the same method, as were other nojak uploaded to the site. 

North Korea created its own version of MS Office called Sogwang Office, and the country’s authorities proclaim that this software has made a great contribution to “office work automation.” Sogwang Office is installed on all North Korean-made laptops and smartphones. 

While the regime tells its populace about the importance of buying things “made in North Korea” and reliance on the country’s own technology, the country’s authorities seem to prefer the greater functionality and convenience of overseas products.

Daily NK’s investigation also found that Adobe’s Indesign software was used to create some North Korean publications. 

An example of a publication on the North Korean website “Korean Books” having been created by Adobe’s Indesign. / Image: Daily NK

A number of books uploaded to the website Korean Books including “Korea,” “Land of Beautiful Scenery” and “Foreign Trade” were found to have been made with Indesign. 

Indesign is software used for layouts and page design in print and digital media. 

Outside of this, North Korea also prints the Rodong Sinmun with Quark’s digital publishing program QuarkXPress, and uses Adobe Photoshop for photo editing. 

Daily NK was unable to uncover whether these programs are being used in North Korea under official licenses; however, since US companies are banned from selling products to North Korea under international sanctions against the country, it is likely that North Korean authorities are using the software illegally and without official licenses. 

Daily NK also found that numerous North Korean websites run on Apache servers from the Apache Software Foundation, and make use of web technology such as JavaScript and PHP. 

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

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Mun Dong Hui is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about his articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.