In a move that surprised very few, it’s been announced that North Korea has restricted access to the uncensored internet. Joining countries like China behind a national firewall, citizens of the country will no longer be able to get their news and information from sources outside of the country. While this may not seem like surprising news, it is important to understand that any movement that North Korea makes to further restrict the rights of its citizens may be telling. The choice to restrict online usage may be indicative of more changes inside the often secretive and usually troubling country.
While North Korea is rarely thought to be an online powerhouse, there’s no doubt that it borders one of the most tech-savvy nations in the world. South Korean agencies have likely depended on internet access as a means of getting information in and out of North Korea for years; and a further crackdown on online security may shut down these channels. Furthermore, this crackdown may tell us quite a bit about who is being targeted. While most of North Korea lives in poverty, the ruling elite enjoy certain privileges; and if these privileges are being curtailed, there may be struggles behind the scenes.
For the moment, North Korea’s restrictions on internet news are an interesting, if somewhat minor, footnote in the ongoing conversation about the country. On the other hand, this may also be only the first step in what could become a major change in how North Korea works. Regardless of what happens, it is always important to be on the lookout for how countries treat the free press. – Those that restrict citizens’ access to information should always be viewed carefully, as a lack of this basic freedom may be indicative of even worse things yet to come for the nation.