How Is Information Being Controlled In North Korea

Background Information

North Korea is one of the world’s most oppressive nations when it comes to controlling information. The government has near-total control over the flow of information within the country, and has taken extreme measures to limit access to external sources of information. This includes blocking internet access to citizens, heavily censoring local media outlets, restricting foreign broadcasts, and incarcerating those caught trying to access or pass on information.

Data and Facts

According to Freedom House, only an estimated 0.5 percent of the population has unrestricted access to the internet, while only a few foreigners and privileged elite have full access. For the ordinary citizen, only a few state-run websites and information portals are accessible. Furthermore, the Local Network System (LNS) was introduced in 2009 with the intention of providing North Koreans with a censored version of the internet. It allowed for North Koreans to access websites like YouTube, but with a catch—searches and results were heavily filtered and monitored by the government.

Experts’ Opinions

Banning of the internet isn’t the only way the North Korean government has been controlling information. According to researchers from the Harvard Kennedy School, the government also encourages citizens to “report on each other” in order to control the spread of information. North Koreans have to be constantly aware of their surroundings and fear talking about taboo topics, such as human rights, with others. A wrong move can lead to severe punishment, including imprisonment.
“In North Korea, seeking, receiving, or sharing outside facts or information – even externally-sourced books and magazines – can can be seen as a political challenge to the government and constitutes a criminal offense,” said North Korea expert Milena Sterio.

My Own Insights

The North Korean government exercises an extreme amount of control not just over its citizens, but also over the data that is available to them. In a country where information is scarce and access to certain types of media or even books is forbidden, individual free thought can become near impossible. This leaves those living in North Korea with a lack of knowledge and understanding both of the world and of their own country.

Impact On People

The consequences of such a stringent system are severe. Mental awareness of many citizens is limited due to a lack of information and a reliance on government propaganda. This means that North Koreans are neither educated enough to challenge the government or better understand the world around them. This can be detrimental both to individuals and to society as a whole.


In an area where knowledge is limited, citizens become increasingly susceptible to exploitation. North Korean citizens can rely on rumours and propaganda passed through word of mouth for information. This often is not true, but citizens may have no other way to get information and will act on what they hear, no matter how false.
It’s not just the people that suffer from the government’s heavy control of information. North Korea’s economy has been suffering for years due to the limited access to technology and data, hence, not allowing the country to compete on an international level. As a result of this, North Korea’s development has fallen drastically behind other countries.

Technological Advancements

The lack of technological advancement has left the citizens of North Korea with almost no way of accessing and sharing the same external information that the rest of the world has access to. However, things began to slowly change in recent years due to the spread of smuggled foreign products such as phones and USB sticks, as well as the emergence of black markets. Now, much of the population of North Korea holds some form of smartphone and can access news, music, and videos from outside North Korea.
Despite this, the North Korean government still has control over the types of data their citizens can access. Citizens of North Korea must use the country’s own intranet, ‘Kwangmyong’, which is heavily monitored and censored. Furthermore, certain sites or pages, including foreign news and entertainment outlets, remain blocked or difficult to access.

Citizen and Government Vulnerabilities

Though access to information and communication technology has improved and become more widespread in recent years, this has inadvertently exposed North Koreans to a risk of cyber-attacks and identity theft. Citizens of North Korea may have to rely on dangerous and unsecured networks in order to communicate externally, making them vulnerable to cyber-attacks from outside agents.
Furthermore, the North Korean government is also vulnerable to potential attacks by outside governments as its information security is often low and technology is antiquated. This risks exposing the government’s data to foreign governments and other actors, further weakening the security of the state.

Attempts To Improve

To combat the issue of cyber-security in North Korea, the government has launched a series of information technology programs. Programs such as ‘Industrialization of Information Technology’, ‘E-Education Project’, and ‘Korean-Chinese IT College’, aim to equip North Koreans with the knowledge and skills necessary to develop and utilize information technology properly.
These initiatives aim to both improve the quality of education in the country by giving citizens access to education materials and sources, as well as upgrading North Korea’s IT infrastructure. It is hoped that these programs will lead to increased technological literacy and understanding amongst the population, as well as improved information security of the nation.

Cassie Grissom is an American journalist and author living in Seoul, South Korea. She has been studying the Korean peninsula since 2011, and her work focuses on understanding human rights issues in North Korea. In addition to her work as an author, Cassie is an active advocate for human rights in North Korea. She regularly shares stories about life in North Korea with international audiences to raise awareness of the plight of its citizens.

Leave a Comment