They don't know anything about Wi-Fi or Google։ How do North Koreans use the internet?

June 9, 2023  12:15

For North Korea's population of 25 million, the Internet simply does not exist. Only a few thousand privileged citizens of this country can access the global network, while even the country's highly censored internal network is inaccessible to the majority of the population. As reported by, it is impossible to get access to free and open information in this country.

A new study by the South Korean human rights organization People for Successful Korean Reunification (Pscore) shows how some of the privileged are still using the Internet. The Internet Freedom Organization's report is based on interviews with 24 North Korean defectors and surveys of 158 others. All left North Korea between 2012 and 2022. The organization presented the results of the study within the framework of the Human Rights Protection Conference (RightsCon).

It turns out that in order to access the Internet, North Korean citizens must go through an approval process that takes several days. When access is finally granted, observers sit next to the user and must evaluate and approve the user's actions every five minutes. Even with all this, the user receives only a small amount of information, which says little about the world outside of North Korea.

Another former resident of the country said that they do not know anything about Wi-Fi in North Korea, especially about Google.

The researcher, whose real name has not been published for security reasons, used the Internet five times while living in North Korea. He used the Internet on a trip to China and had high hopes for the experience, but in reality Internet access was limited and there was constant surveillance.

"The librarian sits between two citizens using the Internet and constantly monitors what they are looking for on the Internet," he said. “Every five minutes the screen would automatically freeze and the librarian would have to authenticate with a fingerprint to allow further Internet use.”

According to him, a state security officer was always nearby.

According to the researcher, people were allowed to use the Internet for one hour, and if someone wanted more time, they had to get a new permission. It took about two days to get permission from the authorities to use the Internet, and it had to be approved by various officials.

According to, the number of digital devices in North Korea has increased over the past decade, and today between 50 and 80 percent of adults have cell phones that they can use to send text messages and call family members. The use of these phones is also strictly controlled: the data transfer rate is low, the devices take a screenshot of the screen every few minutes, and only government-approved content can be viewed on these phones.

Only a few dozen families connected to the country's leadership, as well as some foreigners, have unrestricted access to the Internet in North Korea. And "several thousand" people, including government officials, researchers and IT students, can access a special, censored version of the Internet. In addition, some scientists and researchers who are permitted some foreign travel may occasionally access the World Wide Web while abroad.

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