North Korea denies being on Twitter, Facebook

Despite much ballyhoo about North Korea allegedly using social networking to deliver its message, a government official denies any role in such modern forms of communication.

Social networking now has so much power that even North Korea was alleged to have begun to bow to its supreme leadership.

Just recently, the mysterious home of Kim Jong Il, and, so word would have it, a few other ills too, had reportedly launched Twitter.com/uriminzok. The appearance of the similarly named Facebook.com/uriminzokkiri was also said, by normally reliable sources, to be North Korea's foray onto the world's most important social-networking site.

However, the North Korean government has now communicated through more traditional channels that it is not behind these modern vehicles.

According to a Forbes report, Alejandro Cao de Benos, a special delegate for North Korea's Committee for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries, e-mailed to say: "Any kind of IT-based communication is interesting for the DPRK." This interest, though, does not extend to government tweeting, friending, or even YouTubing.

"Such Web sites will never be run by our government directly," he told Forbes.

"Urominzokkiri" translates as "on our own as a nation," which so clearly describes North Korea that one can understand how so many people, including The New York Times and U.S State Department spokesman Philip Crowley, appeared to take it seriously.

Some believed that this Facebook page was a reaction to the news that its Twitter page, though live in the United States, was blocked in South Korea.

Can Kim Jong Il really be that good-looking? CC John Pavelka/Twitter

Cao de Benos suggested that these sites were run by government supporters who lived in China and Japan. But when it came to the Facebook page, I am not sure that this was run by supporters at all. Perhaps a clue to its potential lack of authenticity and attempt at humor was the fact that, on its creation, its profile offered that the country was male and that it was "interested in men."

Sources within Facebook suggest that this page was taken down because it violated the company's terms of service. I am awaiting official confirmation of that.

Cao de Benos did offer to Forbes how the North Korean government felt about the recent publicity concerning its alleged tweeting and greeting: "We think that there is plenty of misinformation, speculation, and sensationalism regarding the reality of North Korea. This is the hypocrisy of a society that calls itself 'democratic' but is in reality fearful of the ideological power and influence from our side."

Indeed so. It is disappointing that the North Korean government is not itself picking up the social-networking cudgel in order to express is ideological power and influence, and to capture the hearts and minds of the young and impressionable. But if the Facebook page was set up for amusement, I fear for those who might have been behind it.

The North Korean soccer team, having tried hard but having failed to advance during the World Cup, was reportedly excoriated for six hours in public on its return. The coach was reportedly banished to hard labor.

Strangely, I can find no evidence that the North Korean supporters' Twitter feed mentioned this possibility. One can only hope that, very soon, the government itself will offer 140 characters about some of the characters within its cloistered walls. Surely, it could start by telling us who does Kim Jong Il's hair.

 

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