North Korea Joins the Twitter Community

By Jennifer Janviere

North Korean poster art depicting soldier in war

Image from Uriminzok YouTube video

Twitter has a new member: the government of North Korea.

Long known for its reclusive international status and strict controls of incoming and outgoing information, the country reportedly joined Twitter last week. The country’s designated “Tweeters” posts under the name user name “Uriminzok,” which translates to “our people.” The move is somewhat ironic, since the country blocks Internet access for the majority of residents and is not exactly well known for promoting an open dialogue with the international community.

So far, it looks as though the Uriminzok profile will be used primarily as a vehicle for spreading the political propaganda of leader Kim Jong Il, and for presenting an image of itself as a strong military regime rather than engaging with other users. Remaining true to form, the country’s profile has over *10,000 people following while following no one in return. *At the time of this writing.

The country’s attempts at social media have even spawned parody and imitators, such as the Fake Uriminzok account on Twitter.

North Korea also recently created a YouTube account, uploading announcements that denounce South Korea and accuse their southern neighbors of military aggression against the north. There are also numerous romanticized (yet carefully crafted) views of city and landscapes as well as  military style propaganda videos complete with a soundtrack chorus singing ominous anthems extolling the virtues of the regime.

Still, the adoption of social media marks a step forward for North Korea, albeit a tiny one. Although their Twitter updates and YouTube videos fail to provide an honest look at the country’s people and culture, they at least provide an interesting glimpse into the psyche of the repressive government behind the otherwise tightly sealed borders.

It will be interesting to watch in the coming months and years whether social media resources will help news from the outside word trickle into the sequestered country. The Internet and social media are such powerful forces for spreading information and opinions that even a military force like North Korea won’t be able to control it entirely, despite their best attempts. Evidence of this can be seen in numerous secret videos taken inside the country and posted on YouTube to show outsiders a more honest look at the inner workings of the country.

Whether North Korea will admit it or not, the door is now open for the spread of information, and even the strictest policies and punishments will be met with opposition by a brave few who risk everything to share information with the outside world.

Progress is a strong force that, once started, is hard to stop.

Jennifer Janviere is a multimedia specialist and instructor in the Diederich College of Communication.

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The opinions expressed here are those of the individual authors and do not represent the views of Marquette University or the Diederich College of Communication.

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