The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


April 11, 2013

Improbably, North Korea becomes an online sensation



With Secretary of State John F. Kerry due to arrive in South Korea on Friday for previously scheduled meetings, Seoul deployed three naval destroyers, an early-warning surveillance aircraft and a land-based radar system to help it detect the potential launch, a Defense Ministry official told the Associated Press.

Some 36 percent of Americans say they are tracking North Korea-related news, making it the most closely followed foreign news story of the year, according to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center.

The Web popularity is notable, in part, because the North's leaders — fearful of any tool that could spread dissent — have tried to seal off their nation from the Internet, limiting access to only a few hundred people. Those elites, largely members of the North's propaganda department, use the Web strictly for state-sanctioned purposes, crafting messages that portray the North as an imperiled but determined fighter, under threat from U.S. imperialists, united under its peerless leader.

Some of the attention the North attracts on the Web is probably unintentional. Its videos of attacks on America, deployed as sober warnings, use instrumental music of Western songs and borrow from U.S.-made video-game footage. A recently released video, shown on domestic television and shared on YouTube, portrayed German shepherds mauling a photo of South Korea's foreign minister. The minister's face was attached to a wooden mannequin dressed in an olive-colored hunting jacket.

"As for the campiness, that suggests that the videos are largely for internal consumption" on state television, said Ken Gause, an expert on North Korean leadership at CNA, an Alexandria, Va.-based analysis organization. "Even if North Korea produces something for international consumption, it is not going to stray too far from the narrative it has told its people. After all, these videos could make their way back into the regime and cause confusion."

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