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View more articles by Dagyum Ji
Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
North Korea is now operating a new online department store where customers can purchase software, shoes, and other consumer goods, a recently launched news website has reported.
Shopping can be done through an electronic payment system, according to the article.
“Computer users are able to purchase and use programs and products of the online department by connecting to the computer network at home and store without visiting going to a store,” the website called “Dawn”, which is presumed to have been run by the DPRK since early January this year, said.
“The online department store sells all the products of a general department store, including a variety of software, grains, processed goods, basic foods, seasonings, vegetables, wild edible greens, fruits, meats, milk, aquatic products, confectionery, clothes, and shoes.”
The main product of the department store – which is called Naenara (my country) – appears to be software, with 513 programs available for purchase including tools to practice English, play Korean chess, and conduct psychological self-evaluation.
Also available are 194 types of shoes, 164 types of candy and cookies, and products including digital LED TVs, clothes, and fabrics. Customers can also buy groceries.
The outlet said the online department store was getting favorable reviews from housewives, quoting a local by the name of Kim Sun Hyang.
A South Korean expert said the online store could be an attempt by the North Korean government to boost profits for state-owned markets and stores which were lagging behind the private sector.
“The electronic payment is one of the services which [the government] can provide for people, one step ahead of the private market,” said Dr. Lim Eul-chul, a professor at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES) at Kyungnam University. “The North ran the project on a trial for the last few years, but I think the business is now entering a full-fledged stage.”
In 2015, the North launched an e-commerce service for both PC and mobile phones named “Okryu online store,” selling locally made products and delivering them to customers.
Lim said it is “very natural” that the software is a common product, as software programs are frequently developed by state-run companies.
“It’s almost a monopolistic supply,” Lim said. “Another thing is they could make a variety of software to meet growing domestic demand, as the information technology such as tablets becomes more common in the North.”
“Dawn” was firstly covered by Jinkyu Kang, a South Korean reporter at Tech M, on his blog in late February.
Despite the website listing a North Korean phone number and email address, it remains unblocked in South Korea, where national security laws usually make DPRK-affiliated websites inaccessible without a VPN.
NK News found the website’s domain is registered in Beijing, but its IP address was listed as Russian.
“I think that the website is operated by North Korea in the sense that the authorities control the installment of a telephone and the opening of an email account,” Kang told NK News. “Although the domain was hosted in China, there are cases of Uriminzokkiri and other media outlets being registered in China.”
The website also suggested links to state-run propaganda media outlets such as Uriminzokkiri, Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), Rodong Sinmun, Naenara and others.
Like other North Korean outlets, Dawn provides information on the DPRK through various social media sites including Youtube, Twitter, and Facebook, but its accounts appear to have been suspended for around two months.
It also has a section on the right column featuring popular songs in North Korea which can be played as users browse the site.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: Dawn