Instgram said to be back in North Korea

Block of photo sharing website dissappears with as much mystery as it appeared

A photograph of a North Korean billboard is seen on Instagram on June 25, 2015.

A photograph of a North Korean billboard is seen on Instagram on June 25, 2015.

The photos are flowing again from Pyongyang.

A week after mobile Internet users in North Korea began seeing messages telling them the site was blocked, access has been restored, the Associated Press reported on Thursday.

The block was an unusual one for the country, but then nothing about the Internet is normal in North Korea.

Almost the entire population of 25 million people is not permitted to access the network as part of draconian information control that bans foreign TV and print publications, independent media and also attempts to jam foreign radio broadcasts.

But a small handful do have access. They include those in top government positions, estimated to be in the low thousands, and resident foreigners, tourists and journalists in the capital.

And for the foreigners, access has always been completely unrestricted. Ironically, the connection in Pyongyang has provided more access than that in neighboring China, which imposes much less censorship on its citizens.

No reason for the outage of Instagram was given, but speculation has surrounded a fire at a major hotel in the city. Security forces attempted to stop people taking photographs of the scene but the pictures leaked out anyway. State-run media still hasn't reported on the fire, two weeks after it happened, but the images have made the news around the world.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley 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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