Tuesday, April 6, 2010

North Korea Uses Linux to Advance Computer Technology

The DMZ which separates North and South Korea also represents the largest, deepest digital divide in the world.  To the South, The Republic of Korea has the worlds most advanced and dense digital networks, while North Korea, by comparison, has barely started to build such an infrastructure.
An article in The Korea Times yesterday provides some interesting detail about how North Korea is attempting to close the digital divide on the software side of the ICT sector.  This is interesting because South Korea, while extremely strong in ICT hardware manufacturing and exporting, has historically been relatively weak in software. Earlier posts on this blog have called attention to its heavy reliance on Microsoft, to the point of being a "Microsoft monoculture."
In a strategically interesting move, North Korea has developed its own version of the Linux open-source operating system, called "Red Star."  (Click on graphic to see full-sized version of a Red Star home page) According to researchers at South Korea's Science and Technology Policy Institute (STEPI), the software is currently being used mainly to monitor the web behavior of North Korean citizens and to control the information made available to them.  However, the fact that they are developing an operating system to control the flow of information within the country is meaningful in itself.  North Korea seems to be looking to expand the use of its computer programs into more areas.  Prior to developing Red Star in 2002, the North Korean government relied on the English version of Microsoft Windows, according to STEPI.

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