By Cho Jin-seo
Internet will be the first gateway to outside world for North Korea when the tension on the Korean peninsular eases after the South-North summit, an expert said Thursday.
It will be a natural choice for the self-enclosed nation to connect its network to the global Internet if it wants to be a member of global society, said Koh Yoo-hwan, professor of Dongguk University.
``Kim Jong-il has great interest in the information technology sector,'' Koh said. ``Pyeongyang has kept its network closed from the outside because it was concerned about the Web's possible influence on its regime. But if it wants to come out to the international society, it is inevitable to utilize the Internet, first of all.''
North Korea is one of few nations in the world where the Internet is not open to the public. But Koh said that there already are broadband networks set up in North Korea. A computer technology center was also opened by the order of Kim, he said.
Like South Korean Web sites use ``.kr'' for their internet domain address and Chinese sites have ``.cn,'' the ``.kp'' domain was allocated to North Korea but the country never officially asked for the use of the dormant domain.
".kp'' stands for ``Korea, Democratic People's Republic.'' ``kr'' is a short for ``Korea, Republic of.''
``'.kp' has been allocated as North Korea's country-code domain. That said, at the present time there is no delegated operator of the `.kp' domain," said Jason Keenan, media adviser of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).
ICANN discussed about the delegation of the ``.kp'' code in its board meeting on August 14. The minutes are soon to be released.
``Using of the domain suffix indicates that North Korea is now ready to jump into the ocean of information and it wants to prepare for the change,'' Koh, the professor, said.
``The opening can only be possible when the political climate gets warmer in the Korean peninsular. If the North Korea-U.S. relations improves, reforms and opening will follow.''
The North Korean government operates a handful of official and unofficial Web sites on computer servers based in other nations. Most of them are to promote the country to foreigners. But the access to the sites from South Korea is blocked by the South's authorities due to its decades-old laws on national security.
The closest relationship between South and North Koreans on the Web was probably formed between 2003 and 2004, when a North Korean cyber casino started distributing a computer program to its South Korean users, a step aimed at nullifying the access ban imposed by South Korea. The site was closed afterward.