Twiiter Adds North Korea To the Blog Millions
While North Korea was last month threatening to deal out "the severest punishment no one has ever met in the world" to its southern neighbour, the country's government was also quietly opening up a new front in the propaganda war - an official Twitter account.
Using the Twitter username @uriminzok - Korean for "our people" - North Korea has taken to the microblogging site as part of a rejuvenated digital PR campaign. Last month the country's government also opened a YouTube account, uploading 78 news clips in four weeks.
The regime's first tweet roughly translates as: "Website, 'our nation itself' is a Twitter account."
In other tweets posted so far, the account links to past speeches praising the regime's "dear leader" Kim Jong-il, and a denunciation of reports the country's military sank a South Korean navy ship.
The move should not be seen as too surprising, said Professor Hazel Smith, a North Korea expert at the UK's Cranfield University.
"It's very interesting because North Korea is not a technologically underdeveloped country. It's extremely poor but by no means the image portrayed as totally isolated," Smith added. "For at least the last 30 years they've been investing in IT-related training, so it's not really a very big development for them to do this."
The problem for North Korea in communicating, Smith said, is not the means but the message. "They clearly realise that they're not good at PR and so they're looking at ways to get the message out from different sorts of media and they're aware of the impact different forms of media can have, because they [government agencies] go abroad as well.
"The problem for them is not so much the use, it's the content because they're still politically stuck in a timewarp where they're going to - at a propaganda level - give out a stock, old-fashioned almost farcical interpretation of the reality.
"It's not the technology, it's how to make them compete with each other in terms of content. And they're fully aware of the impact of being able to access this type of content."
Gilles Lordet, the chief editor at press freedom body Reporters Without Borders, said North Korea's move into social media is the natural extension of government propaganda.
"For people inside North Korea this makes no difference at all. I don't consider what they're going to say on their Twitter page as honest or objective, so it's not something we can welcome," Lordet said.
"This is about the abroad image of the country. Now they're trying to work on the image of North Korea outside of the country because they have the possibility of the tools, that's what is new.
"Now, with the access to the technology it's easier to do, like with access to Twitter. Perhaps there is a need to get across its own image more, because of events like the sinking of the South Korean boat."
Relations between the two Korean states are at their lowest point in recent years after the sinking in March of a South Korean warship, which was blamed on North Korea.
Tensions have been further heightened by a series of naval training exercises undertaken by the US and South Korea, which prompted threats of retaliation from North Korea.
Last week North Korea seized a South Korean fishing boat for an alleged violation of its exclusive economic zone.
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