The North Korean government has made a habit of ripping off western technology products. Back in 2013, Kim Jong-un’s totalitarian regime made a state-sponsored Android phone ripoff, followed by a Mac OS X ripoff in 2015. Now, it appears that North Korea wants a piece of streaming video.
According to a statement made by the country’s state-run news organisation, the North Korean government is launching a state-sponsored equivalent of Netflix. The announcement is pretty unbelievable considering most of the country does not have functioning internet.
North Koreans (and visitors) will be able to access the service through a set-top box called Manbang, which roughly translates to “everywhere” in Korean and operates on the government’s intranet. The service will allow people to binge-watch state-sponsored documentaries about the country’s totalitarian government or other state-approved TV programming. Great news if you can’t get enough of Kim Jong-un’s fictionalised family history.
Foreign Policy reports North Korean television shows “typically depict moral lessons meant to reinforce faith in the government”. For example, when characters experience hardships, they are often overcome their sorrow by remembering their endless devotion to the party.
If the North Korean government actually delivers on the promise to launch the set-top box, it would be an amazing feat. The country received an atrocious rating from the World Bank and Netcraft in a 2015 analysis of internet connectivity. In the report, North Korea was shown to have zero secure internet servers compared to the 2,320 secure servers-per-million people in South Korea, just a few hundred miles away. The difference is baffling.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to say if we’ll ever get access to the documentaries shown on the North Korea’s Netflix clone, but one thing is for sure — they probably won’t be showing The Interview anytime soon.