The number of YouTube channels carrying North Korean material — some with links to the regime — has climbed steadily this year, according to a list compiled by North-focused website North Korea Tech.
They make news broadcasts, films, television programs and propaganda from the communist state available.
Simply accessing material from North Korea is “not problematic,” a Seoul official said on condition of anonymity. But spreading such material violates the National Security Law (NSL) and “could be problematic,” said the official, who deals with inter- Korean affairs.
The access points to ongoing efforts by the North to harness social media to proliferate propaganda and the difficulties facing Seoul in clamping down on the flow of such information, is a campaign that is under increasing scrutiny.
New sites that have popped up this year include the KCNA Uploader, which says it posts videos from Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency within 10 minutes of their being posted on the agency’s official website, which is blocked here.
A channel created last year carries a vicious video showing a “North Korean PC game against South Korean President Lee Myung-bak” in which Lee is beaten.
The page provides a link to Uriminzokkiri, a mouthpiece website of the North, based in China. Access to that site is also blocked here.
However, access to Uriminzokkiri’s YouTube account is not blocked and has garnered over 3.2 million hits.
Others channels focus on music, film and animation produced in North Korea. North Korea Tech tracks information regarding information technology in the North and recently compiled a list of 21 such accounts. The most popular on the list, DPRK Music, has over 10.2 million and is blocked here.
Some South Koreans may be surprised at the availability of such material, given Seoul’s crackdowns that steadily increased under Lee.
Interpretation of the contentious NSL, used to investigate those who “praise, disseminate or cooperate with anti-state groups,” was back in the spotlight this week when a South Korean man received a suspended 10-month prison term for “re-tweeting” North Korean propaganda posts, despite his claim that his act was meant as a parody.
Enforced in 1948, the law sought to protect the country in the run-up to the Korean War, making illegal both communism and recognition of North Korea as a political entity.
But Lee has been criticized for his government’s implantation of the law. Amnesty International, in its annual report, said the government “increasingly invoked the National Security Law to restrict freedom of expression.