Apr 3, 2015
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E-commerce: North Korea jumps on board

Apr 3, 2015

"Ok Ryu" is the first major North Korean e-commerce site. While it’s largely a symbolic announcement, it’s also surprising in a country where access to electricity remains problematic even in the capital.

The service is intended to provide access to the purchase of food, supplies, drugs, and meals delivered directly from local restaurants. Naturally, payment isn’t made through Visa, Mastercard or Paypal, but rather through a "smart card" or a "computer chip". 

A North Korean officer using one of the country’s few Internet connections - AFP

North Korea’s official news agency has presented the service as a means of improving citizens’ standard of living, and "motivating workers’ enthusiasm while supporting production." Kim Jong Un recently underlined the need to create surplus production in order to boost exports. 

Contrary to the impression given by Pyongyang, it won’t be the country’s first foray into the field: in 2006, the department store Rakwon launched a site, but little information was given at the time.

But what about real Internet access in the country? There are only 1,024 IP addresses in North Korea, according to the national government in a report by the New York Times in December. What’s more, these addresses have had great difficulty with their connection since the end of 2014. This is very likely due to a cyber attack in retaliation to those launched by Pyongyang against the American subsidiary Sony Pictures around that time.

In December, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution calling for the Security Council to refer the North Korean government to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity. A UN report had just described thousands of deaths in North Korean labor camps where killings are planned.

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