N. Korea news now on Twitter

Saturday, June 27, 2009

SEOUL, South Korea -- It's best known as the place to tell millions what you had for breakfast. But dispatches from North Korea's state news agency have begun popping up on Twitter.

A feed under the name "kcna--dprk" -- acronyms of Pyongyang's state Korean Central News Agency and the country's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea -- provides links to hundreds of the agency's English-language stories. The background of the Twitter page for the feed shows the North's red-and-blue national flag.

It is unlikely that the news agency itself is behind the operation; other Twitter users have operated similar news-relay feeds in the past, most notably for CNN. Even if KCNA is operating the feed, it does not mean ordinary citizens in North Korea -- one of the world's most isolated nations -- are able to use Twitter.

The totalitarian regime bans nearly all of its 24 million people from accessing the Internet in its attempt to control the flow of all outside information. Only high-ranking officials have access to the Internet.

A tweeter named James Cox started a similar feed for CNN reports under the handle "cnnbrk." Earlier this year, the network bought the feed, which Cox had been maintaining, though he has no affiliation with the news company.

As of Friday, kcna--dprk had tweeted 562 stories -- a handful each day since late April. It was last updated June 12 with an article about North Korea's No. 2 leader Kim Yong Nam sending a congratulatory message to Azerbaijan's president. The news agency normally publishes dozens of reports in English daily.

User "kcna--dprk" had more than 2,800 followers -- and was following the profiles of nearly the same number of Twitter users, including one who identified himself as Kim Jong Il -- North Korea's absolute leader. In his bio, he describes himself as "the ruler of North Korea. I like leading, chillaxin', inventing things, and following my dreams. I'm better at everything than you."

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