Seoul blocks North Korean ‘propaganda’
South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) has blocked YouTube users in the country from accessing three channels – including one that purports to be produced by an 11-year-old girl in Pyongyang – after accusing them of participating in a North Korean “psychological warfare” campaign.
The three channels were reportedly no longer accessible in South Korea as of Friday afternoon, after the NIS directed the Korea Communications Standards Commission to cut them off. “North Korea has been running such YouTube channels as part of its psychological warfare against South Korea,” an unidentified NIS official told Seoul’s Yonhap News. “It is our job to respond to the North’s psychological campaign.”
Yonhap noted that while North Korean state-run website Uriminzokkiri had been censored on YouTube, it was unusual for Seoul’s spy agency to request that channels be blocked. All three of the newly censored contributors to the video-sharing platform purport to show daily life in North Korea.
For example, the Sally Parks SongA Channel features a young girl discussing topics such as homemade fast food, reading books, and learning to play basketball. Her debut video, posted last year, has garnered 571,000 views. Speaking in English, she touts the “endless” entertainment venues for Pyongyang’s children and says her favorite book is Harry Potter.
Another censored channel, called Olivia Natasha-YuMi Space DPRK daily, features similar content, showing a girl discussing interests such as restaurant outings, ballet shoes, and an amusement park. The girl identifies herself as “Yu-mi from Pyongyang” and says, “I will try my best to satisfy your curiosity.”
The other channel targeted by the NIS, called New DPRK, explores topics such as North Korean shopping, smartphone prices, and a Pyongyang film studio. A video posted earlier this week features a children’s talent show.
People for Successful Corean Reunification, a Seoul-based human rights group, has claimed that only a few thousand privileged North Koreans have internet access. In fact, the group said, most people in the country aren’t even aware of the World Wide Web’s existence. Even those citizens who are granted access must go through a stringent screening process and are closely monitored by security inspectors.
Seoul’s latest censorship move comes less than a year after South Korea’s government ended a decades-long ban on accessing North Korean news outlets. The two Koreas technically remain at war with each other, as their 1950-1953 conflict ended in an armistice rather than a peace agreement.