North Korean authorities have declared that foreign embassies, officials and international NGOs working in country can no longer use WiFi to connect to the internet, citing interests of national security.
Satellite internet access, which allows for foreigners to send information and data at almost no risk of interception from local authorities, will only be possible after users “seek license,” from authorities, a decree document obtained by NK News said.
The new rules, which were issued on August 13, come from the North Korean State Radio Regulatory Department and demand such equipment must be immediately dismantled. Anyone who continues to illegally use WiFi could be fined up to 1,500,000 KPW ($11,326.55 U.S.), the decree explains.
“Signals of regional wireless network, installed and being used without licence, produce some effect upon our surroundings…Therefore, it is kindly notified that the regional wireless network is abolished here,” a notification from the regulatory department obtained by NK News said.
The order follows a story reported by The Diplomat in August, which claimed that unprotected wireless networks originating from embassies were fueling price increases in neighboring buildings as a result of local citizens wishing to access the internet.
“It could be that the reports of WiFi signals from embassies are true, in which case the embassies only have themselves to blame, or … the (Diplomat) report highlighted to the DPRK government that this might happen, so they changed the rules,” Martyn Williams, author of North Korea Tech website told NK News.
The decree does seem to allow for some flexibility, however, hinting that wireless networks could be reactivated pending a “consultation” with the Radio Regulatory Department. It does not though give any indication of what criteria have to be met in order to do so.
“What’s interesting is that they want to inspect networks before issuing licenses but the criteria is unclear. They might just want encryption, or they might want more,” Williams said, noting that any country can restrict the use of its airwaves as it wishes.
The development comes after Reuters reported last week that foreign owners of KoryoLink SIM cards – some of which can access the internet via 3G – were to be more tightly controlled, with 3G service to be active only during the precise times they would be in country.
That news suggested some foreign owners may have left their SIM cards behind for local North Korean citizens to use while out of the country.
“It’s also interesting to note that it comes days after the Koryolink SIM card loophole was closed. Clearly, the Internet is still a big worry for the government,” said Williams.
North Korea had been making access to the internet easier for foreign long-term residents and short-term visitors in recent years, but the new developments appear to signify that trend may be reversing.
The full message from the State Radio Regulatory Department obtained by NK News appears below:
All the Diplomatic Missions and International Organizations to
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
The State Radio Regulatory Department, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, presents its compliments to all the Diplomatic Missions and International Organizations to the DPRK and has the honour to inform that the signals of regional wireless network, installed and being used without licence, produce some effect upon our surroundings.
Therefore, it is kindly notified that the regional wireless network is abolished here according to Article 18, Chapter 3 of the Law on Radio Regulation, and that the Missions, who would like to use the regional wireless network in future, should seek a consultation with the State Radio Regulatory Department.
It would be appreciated if the Missions could positively co-operate in the current measures taken for the security of the DPRK.
The State Radio Regulatory Department, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, avails itself of this opportunity to renew to all the Diplomatic Missions and International Organizations to the DPRK the assurances of its highest consideration.
The State Radio
Republic of Korea
Article 18, Chapter 3 of the DPRK Law on Radio Regulation; The institution, enterprise, organization and citizen who would like to form or use the wireless communication network and satellite communication network here should seek the licence from the Radio Regulatory body.
Article 61, Chapter 4 of the enforcement regulations for the DPRK Law on Radio Regulation; In case of having violated this rules and regulations relative to the application of the Law on Radio Regulation, a fine amounting up to 1,500,000 Wons will be imposed , or such punishment as interrupting the operation or forfeiting the equipment will be inflicted according to the circumstances.
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