Friday, October 12, 2007


"Bad laws are the worst sort of tyranny." - Edmund Burke

In my unceasing attempts to extract my own surplus value, I trade stocks and occasionally invest for the longer term. Last week's unexpected détente between South Korea's President Roh Moo-Hyun and North Korea's Kim Jong-Il raised the possibility that there may in fact be peace in our time after all, which in turns means that my previously mainly dormant North Korean investment otherwise known as Aminex might wake up from its slumbers. This only seemed to be further confirmed by the announcement that oil exploration had been one of the summit discussions. And there was me thinking that these meetings mainly degenerated into arguments about who sits where and which country makes the best kimchi.

When I saw another news story stream though my Dow Jones newswire it seemed like another piece of good news - the North Korean News Agency was reporting that the US was lifting sanctions against them (there is a bit of a reality distortion field up there though). Since the 'news' was nothing more than a headline I tried to go to the Agency's website to get some more detail, and was confronted with this:

And what this basically means is that you can't access the North Korean News Agency's website because South Korea is the kind of democracy where freedom of information is controlled by the government. Although to be fair, this seems to be something of a developing trend globally in some of the world's oldest democracies which should know better. But it wasn't so long ago that I was in the '10.16' Building on the PNU Campus which commemorates a failed student uprising against the military government 28 years ago. It seems that when freedom finally arrived nine years later it came with a large dose of realpolitik built in as far as the North was concerned.

Last time I had a problem accessing this website I was using LG Powercom as my ISP and simply couldn't load the page, but I couldn't load a lot of pages, so I wasn't certain whether it was by accident or design. Later the North Korean site became available while some other sites, including that other well-known hotbed of Marxist radicalism, Barclays Stockbrokers, got blocked, so I had to switch to Korea Telecom's MegaPass service. Evidently, this is the very obvious way they deal with information the National Police Agency and Korea Internet Safety Commission don't approve of. But it begs the question why one major ISP is trying to censor the site while another wasn't (unless it was a mistake - the site is now inaccessible again via Powercom). Whatever the case, surfing around the web and suddenly being confronted with a warning messages with the National Police Agency logo on them is the kind of more associated in the popular mindset with China than South Korea.

One of the concerns over the Irish Aminex is that the day may come when the relationship between North and South will become strong enough that in a burst of national pride both governments will conspire to ensure outsiders are kept out, and that in some way the company's contract will be declared null and void, despite being made under Swiss law. I think anyone who's spent time in Korea knows what the score is as far as social and economic protectionism is concerned, so I'm under no illusions over what may eventually transpire. On the other hand, the continued blocking of what the North Korean government have to say may tell us a lot about how deep rooted the mistrust between these countries are, and it cuts both ways because by some accounts defectors from the North are so indoctrinated and traumatised by their experiences that they have huge difficulties integrating into Southern society. There may be a very long way to go before the Koreans can truly call themselves one people again, if they ever can.

Korean tags: 북한, 범죄, 자유, 정보, 경찰


Anonymous said...

Hi Mike. I'm a regular reader of your blog (great stuff, btw.) When I get stopped by the internet police I use, a proxy server. It served me well even in China where all the blogger sites are blocked (letting me read your blog while abroad). While having to go through a proxy server is a pain, it is still a way to access those sites.

Mike said...

Hello - thanks for the comments. That's a good tip about I used to use it a few years ago when I needed to check the website of my employer's competitor which blocked us (the kind of games two Fortune 500 companies get up to).

I'd forgotten about it because these days I use Tor (Vidalia), though this sometimes interferes with the web server I run on my machine so I only run it when necessary, and it's still often slow.

As I need to get information and make quick decisions from time to time it would be a lot better if none of these proxy methods were necessary. But as far as routing problems (as opposed to censorship) is concerned, MegaPass is at least working out much better than LG Powercom.

Jon Allen said...

Blocking the NK News service seems like such a stupid thing to do, especially since it is so easy to get round. When SK government create rules like that it's no wonder the rule of law is so often treated with such disrespect.
It's like them blocking 80 p**n sites , what was the point of that?

I wonder how long Japan will continue to host the server given the current frost relationship?

With North Korea having recently been given it's own sub domain they should switch it over, national prestigure and all that sort of thing?

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