North Korean domain names return to the Internet

Dot KP sites and names are back online after a mysterious shutdown last year

North Korean domain names have returned to the Internet over the last few days as the country continues to build its presence online. Websites, previously available only via IP addresses, are now accessible through dot-kp addresses and it appears more might be on the way.

An multilingual portal site from Pyongyang's Korea Computer Center, Naenara, is available at http://www.naenara.com.kp, the Committee for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries, which handles international exchanges, has a site at http://www.friend.com.kp, and the state-run Korea Central News Agency is online at http://www.star.edu.kp.

The reemergence of KP domain names marks the first time in several months that the North Korean domain has been functional. It was assigned in 2007 and managed by a company based in Germany, but the domain and a handful of sites also managed by the company disappeared in the second half of last year for reasons that are still unclear.

Domain name servers for KP are now located on a network operated by Star JV, a telecommunications joint venture between the North Korean government and Thailand's Loxley Pacific.

Queries of the KP domain name servers show an addition six second-level domains have been registered in addition to the com.kp and edu.kp that are already in use. They are: net.kp, gov.kp, org.kp, rep.kp, tra.kp and co.kp. Three additional websites have been detected operating within the Star JV network, but they showed only installation pages for web server software.

North Korea doesn't permit the majority of its citizens access to the global Internet and has a minimal Internet presence, but the start of the Star JV network and these new websites represent an increase in its activities online.

It hasn't gone unnoticed by the South Korean government, which in December said it would further restrict its citizens from accessing and relaying information on the Internet that is sympathetic to North Korea. The two countries are officially still at war and South Korea bars its citizens from unauthorized contact with North Koreans. It also blocks several websites sympathetic to North Korea from access by users in South Korea.

On Monday prosecutors in Seoul indicted a 54-year old South Korean citizen on charges of posting Internet messages praising North Korea, local media reported. The man, identified only by his family name Cho, is accused of posting more than 100 messages and video clips sympathetic to North Korea from 2009 until October last year, said Yonhap News.

The indictment came as Uriminzokkiri.com, one of the highest profile websites that posts North Korean material, was the subject of an attack by hackers. The site's Twitter and YouTube channels were hacked and messages and a video denigrating North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il and leader-in-waiting Kim Jong-Un, were posted. The main site was also unavailable for a time, apparently as a result of a DDOS (distributed denial of service) attack.

Martyn Williams covers Japan and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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