North Korea reveals Netflix clone for citizens

Manbang is a set-top box for citizens -- with content closely regulated, of course.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

North Korea has invented a set-top box for streaming content which will give citizens access to on-demand video services.

State broadcaster KCTV in North Korea demoed the device on Tuesday, which reportedly allows users to "replay documentary films about the leadership and learn Russian and English languages" using the state-controlled Intranet.

The country, colloquially known as the "Hermit Kingdom" due to its isolation from the rest of the world, keeps a tight rein on foreign influence.

Power and electricity supplies are limited to major areas, such as the capital Pyongyang, and if available, only a select few elite in the class-based social hierarchy -- also known as the concept of songbun -- and members of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) have access to any kind of internet.

Even so, this is a heavily regulated Intranet and foreign content is censored by the government's leaders.

According to local media, the Manbang box will permit users to also access content from the propaganda-churning Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), channels relating to the country's Juche ideology, and articles from the state-controlled newspaper Rodong Sinmun.

NK News says the box "allows viewers to search for programs by typing in the title, or by browsing through categories, offering similar functionality to Netflix in the United States."

Kim Jong Min, head of the center in charge of providing information and technology, told the publication that "if a viewer wants to watch, for instance, an animal movie and sends a request to the equipment, it will show the relevant video to the viewer [..] this is two-way communications."

See also: North-South tension causes internet censorship in Korea: Is it justified?

The device needs to be connected through an HMDI port and also requires access to a high-speed modem -- something which few North Korean citizens have access to, thereby likely reducing the potential viewer rate even further.

In March, the South Korean government accused its northern counterpart of hacking the mobile devices of senior officials. Attacks were also reportedly made against railway agency control centers.

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