In North Korea, where people have almost no Internet contact with the outside world, “North Korean social media” sounds like an oxymoron. But on February 25, Jean H. Lee of the Associated Press became one of the first people to tweet from North Korea when she posted a message on the country’s new 3G wireless network, available only to foreigners.
Lee is joined in her social media updates from Pyongyang by AP photographer David Guttenfelder, who posts images often to his 71,000 Instagram followers.
As the AP’s bureau chief for both South and North Korea, Lee is the only American news reporter granted regular access to the secretive nation, which she has visited more than 20 times. She offers a rare glimpse of digital life beyond the DMZ.
The country lags behind much of the world when it comes to digital adoption, but there are signs that North Korea is trying to catch up, Lee said. The new Koryolink 3G network — jointly owned by the North Korean government and an Egyptian company — that launched last month marks a shift in policy for Kim Jong Un’s regime, which also has recently begun to allow foreigners to bring their cellphones into the country.
“We are starting to see more openness,” she said. “We’re talking baby steps. They’re a long way from being a free and open society.”