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Tweets allow peek at life in NKorea in real time

February 27, 2013 • Business, National News


In this photo posted on Instagram, a man walks in Pyongyang, North Korea, under a new roadside banner referring to North Korea’s controversial Feb. 12 nuclear test Monday, Feb. 25, 2013. Tweeting and uploading to Instagram is pretty ordinary stuff in the world of social media, but revolutionary for North Korea. (AP Photo/Jean H. Lee)

“Hello world from comms center in (hash)Pyongyang.”

That Twitter missive, sent Monday from Koryolink’s main service center in downtown Pyongyang using my iPhone, marked a milestone for North Korea: It was believed to be the first tweet sent from a cellphone using the country’s new 3G mobile data service.

Later, as we were driving through Pyongyang, I used my iPhone to snap a photo of a new roadside banner referring to North Korea’s controversial Feb. 12 nuclear test while AP’s Chief Asia photographer David Guttenfelder uploaded an image to Instagram of a tour guide at a mountain temple, geotagged to Pyongyang.

Pretty ordinary stuff in the world of social media, but revolutionary for North Korea, a country with intricate rules to stage manage the flow of images and information both inside and beyond its borders.

In the past, rules were strict for tourists visiting North Korea. On a bus journey across the Demilitarized Zone into the border city of Kaesong in 2008, we were told: No cellphones, no long camera lenses, no shooting photos without permission. The curtains were drawn to prevent us from looking outside as we drove through the countryside, and through the cracks we could see soldiers stationed along the road with red flags. We were warned they’d raise those flags and stop the bus for inspection if they spotted a camera pointed out the window. As we left North Korea, immigration officials went through our cameras, clicking through the photos to make sure we weren’t taking home any images that were objectionable.

In 2009, I did not offer up my iPhone as we went through customs. But to no Login to read more

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