State ratchets up its propaganda drive
North Korea has turned to Twitter and YouTube to step up its propaganda struggle with South Korea and the US as the isolated state comes under growing international pressure since the sinking of a southern warship .
Although curious web surfers have been checking out Pyongyang's offerings, North Korea 's intended message may not be getting through, with South Korea blocking links from northern tweets and some viewers posting mocking comments on the videos and messages. The US, however, welcomed North Korea's move into the social media, with the state department adding that Pyongyang should allow its citizens free access to the sites.
North Korea, one of the world's most secretive nations, blocks internet access for most of its 24m citizens, although it has a cadre of elite hackers.
Uriminzokkiri, a website run by North Korea's propaganda agency, the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea, has announced the launch of the Twitter feed and of a channel, or dedicated section of videos, on YouTube. The Twitter feed, under the name Uriminzok, "our nation", has attracted more than 6,000 followers in less than a week.
Uriminzok yesterday tweeted dozens of messages linked to official propaganda reports on Uriminzokkiri. The messages, which echo Pyongyang's news media, threaten "merciless retaliation" against South Korea and the US, calling them "warmongers".
Users in South Korea who try to follow links on North Korea's Twitter messages receive a warning against "illegal content" and have been blocked from following links from the tweets to Uriminzokkiri.
"People would have to bear in mind that they could be violating the law when they tweet with the account," said Lee Jung-joo of the South's unification ministry this week.
Others seem to be taking the messages less seriously. One viewer, under the user name FRwritings, wrote that Kim Jong-il, the northern leader, was "on Twitter to promote his hairdo".
Seoul blocks about 65 websites linked to the North and bans its citizens from communicating with North Koreans directly, but has not blocked access to the YouTube channel, which launched last month.
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Credit: By Song Jung-a in Seoul