Yesterday on our Made in North Korea series we covered the country’s self-produced computer operating system, Red Star O.S. Today we’re going to build on this and dig deeper into the world of technology and computing in North Korea. Thus we’re now going to cover the “Naenara Browser“, North Korea’s very own web browser! Translating to the term “My nation” (Nae nara), the application emerged around 2013 in a similar light to the country’s smartphone and tablet products. But what does Naenara offer? And can it tempt you away from using Chrome? Let’s find out!
The Naenara Browser is argued to not really be an independent innovation, but a modified and old version of Mozilla Firefox. It is as we discussed in our previous post, a staple of Red Star O.S and other domestically produced hardware. On the computer version, when the browser is opened, it seeks to connect directly with North Korea’s intranet system and automatically pings an IP address to connect to it. Even though in the outside world google can be used and thus the worldwide web, the browser is programmed that all information and data is circuited through the North Korean severs, including emails. This of course is used for “political conveniences”. Some android versions of the browser do not even have this to begin with, with the Samjiyon Tablet having no wifi function whatsoever and instead having a built in connection to North Korea’s Kwangmyeong network; meaning it is the only internet you can use in that instance.
Unsurprisingly, Naenara also automatically and irreversibly bookmarks key DPRK news websites and places them on display for you. Even if you can use it in the outside world for other things, you will always be offered an unchallengeable list of KCNA, Rodong Sinmum, the Naenara portal (official DPRK website) and so on. This shows how the program itself was constructed in a view to supporting the political messaging of North Korea, as opposed to allowing people to discover things they shouldn’t. Finally, it also automatically updates itself and there is no ability for the user to block that function!
So what can we say about the Naenara Browser in the end? It’s a mixed bag really. It does the basic job of letting you surf the internet, but it certainly has its catches to it as well. It’s a tool of politics as much as it is a tool of the web. You probably won’t be rushing to download it!