Yahoo! Japan to make disaster relief donation for every person who searches for 3.11 on March 11

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RocketNews 24:

Four years on, the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis that befell Japan’s Tohoku region on March 11, 2011 have very little effect on the day-to-day lives of most people in the country. The rolling blackouts have stopped. Batteries and bottled water are once again readily available. Trains are running, and whole cities aren’t spending hours walking home from work or school.

But while a return to normalcy is a desirable, and ultimately necessary, part of recovery, it’s also important to remember what happened. To stem the forgetfulness that often accompanies the later stages of coping with tragedy, on March 11 Yahoo! Japan will be making a donation to the Tohoku recovery efforts for every person that searches for “3.11” through the company’s search engine.

The Internet provider and portal conducted an identical initiative last year, supplying a total of 25,683,250 yen (approximately US $216,00) to charitable organizations. This year, Yahoo! will be making its donation to the Tohoku Recovery Support Organization (Toholu Fukkou Shien Dantai in Japanese).

A 10-yen donation will be made for each user who searches for “3.11” between midnight and 11:59 p.m. on March 11. To reiterate, the donation is made per user, not per search. Once you’ve searched once, you’ve done your job, so there’s nothing to be gained by repeating the search over and over again.

Instead, Yahoo! would prefer you took the time to read through some of the results that come up, in keeping with the program’s aim of creating a moment in which to think about the places and people’s lives which were so abruptly changed in 2011. The company also plans to release a video with interviews of people from the disaster-struck towns of Ishinomaki, Yamadamachi, and Soma, which are located in Miyazaki, Iwate, and Fukushima Prefectures, respectively. Yahoo! will also be creating a visualization of 3.11-releated searches, similar to the one from 2014

▼ Aside from jishin/地震 (“earthquake”), dengonban/伝言板 (“message board”), yoshin/余震 (aftershock), gienkin/義援金 (“donation”), and gasorin/ガソリン (“gasoline”) are all prominently featured.

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Yahoo! Japan’s search box can be found here.

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Chinese web firms delete more than 60,000 accounts as new rules loom

Wall Street Journal: (by Josh Chin)

Chinese Internet companies have deleted tens of thousands of user accounts as the country prepares to enforce new registration rules that will further cement government control over online discourse.

A total of more than 60,000 accounts across a number of Chinese Internet platforms were deleted in recent days, chiefly because of misleading or harmful usernames, the Cyberspace Administration of China said in a statement dated Thursday. Among them were accounts that masqueraded as government departments, carried commercial names such as “Come Shoot Guns” and “Buy License Plates,” spread terrorist information or sported erotic avatars.

Unverified accounts falsely claiming to represent state media were also shut down, the agency said, adding that it covered everything from microblogs to chat accounts to online discussion forums. Companies listed as having taken part in the cleanup included top U.S.-listed Chinese tech giants Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. , Tencent Holdings Ltd. , SinaCorp. and Baidu Inc.

The comprehensive creation of a clear and bright Internet space requires active and positive conduct from enterprises,” the regulator’s statement said.

The new rules aim to further tame the country’s already tightly controlled Internet by prohibiting the use of deceitful or harmful identities and requiring Internet users to submit genuine personal information when registering for online services. They were announced earlier this month and go into effect March 1.

China has attempted to implement similar limits in the past, with mixed success. The current effort, however, arrives at a time of intense ideological and political tightening as Chinese President Xi Jinping moves to reassert Communist party dominance over public discourse, particularly online.

Venture capitalist and Chinese blogging pioneer Isaac Mao warned that requiring users to register with their personal information to use any Internet service would stifle expression and creativity online.

It definitely has a chilling effect,” Mr. Mao said. “In the long run, freedom of speech and freedom of innovation will be dramatically harmed.

Weibo Corp. ’s microblogging service deleted 5,500 accounts, according to the regulator’s statement. They included accounts that spread information related to the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a separatist group from the northwestern region of Xinjiang.

Tencent canceled instant messaging and other social media accounts related to gambling, firearms, fake invoices and fake food-safety information, the regulator said.

Neither company immediately responded to requests for comment.

Some analysts have warned that the new rules could make things challenging for Chinese Internet companies by increasing operational costs while reducing total user numbers.

Yet tighter registration might also improve the quality of their users, said Xiaofeng Wang, a senior analyst at Forrester.

Marketers and consumers have become more mature. They’re getting past the stage where they care only about the total number of users,” she said. “They’ve realized the important thing is the actual, active users.”

Baidu dismissed the idea that the deletions would have an impact on its business. The search giant removed more than 23,000 accounts from its popular PostBar, or Tieba, discussion forums, mostly for promoting “vulgar” culture or featuring erotic avatar images, the agency said.

It’s a vanishingly small percentage of the total number of Baidu PostBar accounts, which number in the hundreds of millions,” said Baidu spokesman Kaiser Kuo. He declined to comment further on what the company was doing to comply with the new requirements.

The regulator didn’t say whether Alibaba had deleted any accounts, but said the company had set up a special working group to manage usernames on its various platforms. Alibaba declined to comment.

Ms. Wang said further restrictions on speech could hurt the attractiveness of social media platforms, but said that companies were unlikely to resist. “With the Internet, you always have to obey certain rules if you want to operate a business in China,” she said.

From out of shape to fitness instructor in three years – one woman’s tale of reinvention

RocketNews 24:

Here on the Internet, where many of us virtually live, there’s little we love more than a good tale of transformation. Whether it’s through the use of clever make-up and camera angles to achieve a gorgeous face, or whether it’s a full-body overhaul, there’s something uplifting about living vicariously through other people’s success stories.

Today we’d like to share with you the tale of one woman in China who transformed herself from couch potato to fitness instructor in just three years, losing almost half her body weight in the process.

The unnamed woman from China originally weighed close to 100 kilos (220 pounds), but over the course of three years managed to whittle herself down to just 50 kilos (110 pounds). While not too much is known about her, it seems that she managed to lose weight responsibly through exercise and upping her personal fitness, and while sudden weight loss can be just as unhealthy as sudden weight gain, with three years to do it in, it sounds like she went about her weight-loss programme fairly sensibly.

Apparently, the young woman now works as a fitness instructor and has been hailed as a “goddess of fitness” in her native China.

▼ This gallery of “before” photos shows a happy-looking young woman with full, round cheeks, and an understated style.

▼ This side-by-side comparison shows a completely different-looking young woman in both weight, dress, and posture.

▼ Hard at work in her new environment. 


How BuzzFeed’s Eugene Lee Yang became one of the most recognizable faces on the Internet

Kollaboration: (By Lee Yang)

Look, we’re just going to say it: Eugene Lee Yang is freaking awesome. On a recent trip to BuzzFeed’s LA headquarters, Kollaboration got to spend an hour with the one and only Eugene. During that time, we were able to learn that this self-proclaimed workaholic is a) a serious filmmaker, b) a staunch supporter of all things Asian American, c) absolutely not a fan of racist jokes, d) unfiltered about his views toward issues of diversity, and e) intensely eloquent.

Born and raised in Texas, Eugene grew up in a community where he and his family were the only Asian faces among a sea of whites, Blacks, and Latinos. To see any Asians he had to go to the Korean church, 45 minutes away by car.

As a child, Eugene was sensitive and introspective, and often expressed himself through artistic outlets: from visual arts and illustration, to theater, choir, and dance. Pursuing film wasn’t on Eugene’s radar. “I kind of considered it as a rich white person thing because that’s all that was on screen,” he says. In seventh grade, a teacher recommended that he consider film as a serious profession. He took the advice, and even at a young age, had his sights set on the University of Southern California’s prestigious School of Cinematic Arts.

He graduated from USC with a production degree in 2008, and then spent 5 years mostly working freelance and making commercials and music videos. (Check out some of his other work on the website of his production company, The Menagerie.) In 2013, Eugene joined BuzzFeed Video after being referred by a colleague who believed in his talent for creating engaging short-form videos. And the rest, well, we’ll let him tell you himself. Here are 24 things Eugene had to say about his life, his insights on media, his work with BuzzFeed, and Asian American representation:

1. Getting in front of the camera was never a thing I actively volunteered for. It wasn’t because I was a good actor, or that I was funny on screen. It came down to a simple decision that we need more diversity on screen. And that’s all it takes, is to say, “There’s an Asian guy here, throw the Asian on camera.”

2. People think my ego has inflated so much more since I’ve been on screen, but it’s not true. It’s been completely compacted into this small, determined, straight-forward, objective-driven mission, which is to be part of something that is much larger than myself.

3. I never seriously considered myself as an actor. I wanted to impart change through my perspective, in my writing and my director’s voice.

4. I realized there was more impact with my face in the scene, than strictly being a director. Which was a hard pill to swallow for someone who was very serious about filmmaking for very long time. But now I get to control the voice of the piece, while being the face of the piece.

5. I’m not quite aware of this success people talk about until people recognize me on the street. I get that a lot. Some people just yell “Asian BuzzFeed guy!” and I turn around and distinctly yell back “Eugene!”

6. I was always the ugly kid. Always. So when people said they liked me, I was like “oh do you like…my brain?” Because I was always made to believe that I’m just like white people, only I looked different, which disqualified me for a lot of things, like being in the spotlight and in front of the camera.

7. These days, you don’t produce things to just creatively masturbate. You want to create something that people can share for a very long time. And that’s the challenge for any online video producer to understand, is that we are part of a much larger conversation.

8. Here’s the difference between traditional film and internet viral videos: The conversation sort of stops for filmmakers once the product is out. You devise a project as a statement, and it’s there for the public to digest and discuss. With an internet video, you instead conceive them to be part of an ongoing conversation. With my recent video about women’s ideal body types throughout history, for example, what we could do was create something that added a different perspective to the subject, so that people can respond and discuss the issue in an intelligent manner.

9. I have a lot of videos I haven’t released because I realized with where I am now, as this sort of media figure, what I potentially represent for young Asian Americans is much more important than me creating my own art that could possibly be very divisive.

10. I did a video: Awkward Moments Only Asians Understand. And I realized it did so well because the comedic tropes for the Asian community haven’t changed for over 30 years. It dawned on me that this was an issue for the Asian community at large. Being the invisible middle is like you’re open hunting season for jokes.

11. A lot of well-known Asian comedians, a lot of their routines play into the Asian stereotypes because it’s what the audience laughs at, because it’s always been okay to laugh at. You say “ching chong” and you get a huge laugh out of it. A mission of mine is to start yelling at people who laugh at those things. You just need someone to tell people that it’s still very harmful for young people to see these stereotypes.

12. It’s tired. It’s boring, and I get really unimpressed. A lot of times I go to a comedy show, I sit there and wait for the comedian to run out of ideas and look at me and make an Asian joke. Which is very different for Blacks and Latinos. You can’t say certain things because everyone is cognizant of when things are and should be offensive. Asians don’t have that luxury.

13. I tell my friends still, constantly, to shut up when they make Asian jokes. No. Shut up. I don’t care. Don’t do that around me.

14. We tend to forget that our parents came here with nothing and worked hard for their success. Other people think we’re upwardly mobile, that we’re just like white people. And it’s like, no we’re not. Most of us are children of immigrants. We didn’t come here with bags of money.

15. The assumption that it’s just okay to make fun of a community that they think is doing fine is bulls–t.

16. When people say, “I was a slacker in high school, I smoked a lot of pot, so it makes me a cool Asian.” I’m just like, “I don’t care.” Sure, that’s great, you do you, but don’t think yourself as less Asian because of it. There are a s–t ton of Asians who smoke pot. You can’t be an Asian American and be proud of your non-Asian-ness.

17. People think that everything comes down to old rich white men. They’re not the common denominator anymore. The future is changing every single second, so you’re either going to ride that wave and be on top of the game, or still be scratching some white guy’s door in ten years and be behind the curve.

18. We need more people who push for not only equality but diversification within diversity. People bring up that we have supporting characters on television now, like, “It’s not just the sassy Black receptionist, but there’s like an Asian friend who works there, too.” But no. We need Asian male romantic leads. We need Asian girls who are comedy leads.

19. Right now is the first time in history where there is a rebuttal to a one-sided argument, and BuzzFeed is at the forefront of this wave, of young creatives being able to represent themselves in the way without fear of repercussion that could be violent.

20. I’m always shocked at how little we are represented on film and TV. It’s as if our stories are not controversial, or staggeringly painful enough for the older white audience to pat themselves on the back to say, “Oh, I learned something; I feel bad for what we did in history.” Even though we were on the railroads and in the internment camps. But we’re not white-looking enough to be the leads. That’s always been the issue.

21. Now you get people who have this colorblind perspective, which is equally harmful. We can’t have people saying that we are all the same, because we’re not.

22. It’s supply and demand. Most Asian Americans, like myself, as a child, did not see either supply or demand of Asians on television. Now casting directors are using the bulls–t excuse of there not being enough demand, because they’re making less demand for it, so then we don’t see opportunities for ourselves, and we don’t try. I would never have supplied myself as an actor if I didn’t join BuzzFeed.

23. The great thing about the proliferation of K-pop is that it puts Asian faces out there. Adjusted, but still Asian faces. If it’s even one small town girl who is now obsessed with supporting Asian culture, then more power to them!

24. We have the right to be angry about our representation in the media. It’s just not a reflection of how we live our daily lives. It’s not even a reflection of the general audience and how they live their daily lives. Teenagers these days have very diverse groups of friends. There’s a reason we all cried when Gina Rodriguez won that Golden Globe. It didn’t matter if we’re Latina. We get it. We’re just like, “Thank you! Finally, a more accurate reflection of diversity!”

14-year-old Trisha Prabhu presents a genius idea to help put an end to cyber bullying at TEDxTeen


RocketNews 24:

Bullying is not a new phenomenon. Even if you haven’t personally experienced it, you likely know some who has been bullied, or have seen it happen to someone else. So have our parents, and most likely their parents too. Adults can be bullies too, but children and adolescents are much more likely to act without thinking, making it much more of a problem for the younger generation.

What is a relatively new phenomenon, however, is cyber bullying. After hearing about a young girl who was bullied to the point that she decided to commit suicide, 14-year-old Trisha Prabhu knew something had to be done, and set to work making a system that could drastically reduce the incidences of cyber bullying.

With technology and social media now a part of our everyday lives, it’s not much of a surprise that the taunting and teasing of classmates and peers has taken on a new form. Now, not only is it just mean words and occasional fistfights in the school yard, it is hateful and embarrassing words, photos, and videos permanently and publicly displayed for anyone to see. The anonymity that the internet often provides only exacerbates the situation.

When Trisha heard the news of the young girl who took her own life because of the relentless online teasing she endured, the young teen was heartbroken, and decided then to do what she could to prevent something like that from happening again.

It was after learning of a particular fact about adolescent brains that she was able to come up with her brilliant idea. The fact is, as our brains develop, they develop from from back to front, the front part of the brain not being fully developed until around age 25. That front part of our brains is what helps us with decision-making. This is why kids are more likely to act on impulses without considering the consequences. When it’s so easy, second nature even for the youth of today, to type up a text message or comment and hit ‘send’, they may not always think about the effect of their words or their actions.

i thirst for brainssss to drain

What if I gave them a chance to think about what they were doing?” Trisha wondered, as she set out on her mission and created the product Rethink, which creates an alert before a potentially offensive message is posted, asking the poster if they really want to write something that could hurt someone else, giving them the chance to stop and think about what they are doing.

you are styooopid you are styoooopid

In her trial studies, Trisha found that over 93% of the time, when adolescents received that message, they changed their willingness to post the offensive material.

eddy eagle says

While still in development, Rethink has already gotten Trisha many awards and praise, and she hopes to soon have it available as a Chrome browser extension and mobile add-on, to help stop cyber bullying worldwide.

Trisha’s idea has even reached across to Japan, where bullying is a particularly big problem, cyber-bullying included (something which is known as ネットいじめ netto ijime, netto being the shortened word for internet, and ijime meaning bully or bullying).

BlackBerry’s CEO John Chen doesn’t understand what net neutrality is

BlackBerry Classic


Think that net neutrality means all companies have the same, unfettered access to the internet without throttling or “fast lanes?” BlackBerry‘s CEO John Chen doesn’t agree! In a letter to the Senate, he dismissed the need for tight “Title II” government oversight of wireless internet providers by calling it “excessive,” without elaborating further. Then, he then took the conversation in a different, BlackBerry-centric direction. He said that rather than being just about internet freedom, wireless internet regulation needs to revolve around openness for devices and apps — BlackBerry neutrality, if you will.

Specifically, Chen believes devices should be regulated against blocking or locking by carriers. Such a policy would aid BlackBerry, of course, since carriers stock fewer of its devices these days. (Which as far as we can tell is due to lack of demand, rather than any discrimination on the part of wireless outfits.) He also feels that net neutrality should force content providers to build apps for all types of devices. For instance, he said Netflix has discriminated against Blackberry’s ecosystem by not furnishing an app, even though the data-hungry service demands carrier neutrality.

Chen further said it’s unfair that BlackBerry offers its BBM service to Apple and Android, when Apple doesn’t offer its iMessage app on Android or BlackBerry, for instance. In his opinion, OS-makers should be required to furnish key apps to all of their competitors. Otherwise, the result is a “two-tiered wireless broadband ecosystem,” which gives Apple and Android users far more access to content than BlackBerry (and presumably, Windows Phone, though he didn’t name-check his fellow bottom-dweller).

You may argue that it’s the market’s job to sort out such things. Either way, you have to admire Chen’s chutzpah. Instead of talking about carrier discrimination against service and content providers, he’s trying to make net neutrality about the providers themselves discriminating “based on the customer’s mobile operating system.” Like, oh, BlackBerry’s, for instance.

Keeping video art pioneer Nam June Paik’s legacy alive

“Horizontal Egg Roll TV” by Nam June Paik. (Hakgojae Gallery)

Korea Herald (By Lee Woo-young): 

No one better predicted how mass media and the Internet would shape our lives today than Nam June Paik. In 1974, the visionary Korean artist came up with the term “Electronic Superhighway,” coined from the U.S. interstate highway system to foretell the Internet’s complex network.

A pioneer in video art, Paik had so many new ideas that had never been thought of. But to visualize them, he needed technological assistance.

Enter Lee Jung-sung. For over 20 years, the electronics technician worked with Paik, helping him turn his ideas into reality.

Now, nine years after the artist’s death, the 71-year-old assistant still travels the world to museums and galleries that need his hand to fix Paik’s works.

Lee Jung-sung, Nam June Paik’s technician, poses at Hakgojae Gallery in Seoul.

I had a dream about Paik four days ago. He was as healthy as ever,” Lee said over dinner with reporters after a press preview of the Nam June Paik exhibition at Hakgojae Gallery last Friday. The exhibition, which brings together 12 works of Paik to commemorate the ninth anniversary of his passing, opens Wednesday.

The electronics expert started working with Paik in 1985. His first project for Paik was “The More the Better,” a huge video tower currently on display at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea. Lee installed images on the screens that Paik wanted to show.

“W3,” by Nam June Paik (Hakgojae Gallery)

I even created a ‘video divider’ that sends image signals to monitors, which did not exist at the time,” he said.

They had the “best partnership,” Lee recalled.

The teacher explained to me the concept of his work in drawings, sometimes on a piece of napkin,“ he said, referring to the late artist. Paik was more than 10 years older than him.

Sometimes, Paik didn’t show up to check on the process until two to three days before the scheduled opening of an exhibition. Other times, the two worked side by side to finish well before the deadline, he explained.

The most challenging, time-consuming project was “Megatron,” which exists in three editions that now belong to separate collections at the Smithsonian Art Museum, Seoul Museum of Art and Soma Museum in Seoul.

Lee had to figure out how to integrate different moving images shown on over 200 monitors that comprise the billboard-sized work.

The work shows a mix of diverse images, including animated images, real images from the Seoul Olympics, Korean folk rituals and modern dance.

It took us four to five months to complete the work. The concept was really tricky. It wasn’t something I could make in a couple of days,” he said.

Another work, “W3,” was the result of their in-depth study and research to enable five different images to stay on a screen for one-sixth of a second before moving on to another screen. Paik was so precise about the one-sixth second rule that he measured the time carefully until the last minute of the clip.

Of all things, the teacher wanted viewers to enjoy his works. He once said, ‘If a viewer stays in front of my work for three minutes, that would be the best honor,’” Lee said.

Nam June Paik Art Center in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province, highlights televisions, Paik’s favorite artistic medium, in the anniversary exhibition scheduled to begin Jan. 29, the day of Paik’s death. Before he died, Paik once called the provincial government-funded art center “The House Where Nam June Paik Lives Long.”

The art center commemorates Paik with a biennial artist award and regular exhibitions of young artists with innovative and creative ideas.

The Nam June Paik exhibition at Hakgojae Gallery ((02) 720-1524) continues through March 15. The Nam June Paik Art Center ((031) 201-8571) is holding the anniversary exhibition “TV is TV” from Jan. 29 to June 21.

In foiling Gmail, China foils itself


New York Times: 

Back at the turn of the century, when China began trying to crack down on the Internet, Bill Clinton said, “Good luck. That’s sort of like trying to nail Jell-O to the wall.”

He seems to have underestimated the ingenuity and commitment of Chinese censors, who in intervening years have put up the Great Firewall, some of the world’s most sophisticated machinery and software for controlling or blocking what reaches millions of Chinese Internet users. Many foreign services, including Twitter and Facebook, are blocked altogether, and the list grows by the week.

But the technical ability to nail Jell-O to the wall does not necessarily make it useful or desirable, as China demonstrated last Friday, when many users of Gmail in China found the service shut down.

Most of Google’s services have been disrupted since June, but until last week Gmail could still be accessed by its many Chinese users over protocols like SMTP or POP. These, too, went down. Chinese officials claimed to be flummoxed by the problem. But it looked for all the world like another attempt by China’s Internet nannies to either patch a hole in the Great Firewall or to intimidate Google, the biggest thorn in their sides.

Google is among the Western technology companies that have refused to bow to China’s idea of “Internet sovereignty,” which includes sharing information on users with the government. The company moved its servers out of China in 2010, and all of its services — including its search function — were shut down in China in the crackdown on foreign Internet services in the months leading up to the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests.

Though there is no solid evidence that China blocked Gmail, or indications of why it might have, the fact is that China faces a dilemma in dealing with Western information giants. The free flow of information and the potential for quick popular mobilization through social networks are anathema to the authoritarian state, and China has gone to great lengths to control what comes in.

But as a rapidly developing economic powerhouse, China also needs the instant communications, quick research and management tools of the technology giants. Gmail is especially popular with Chinese doing business with Western companies, and many publicly complained about the interruption. The technology companies, for their part, salivate at the vast and rich Chinese market but bridle at the control and censorship China demands as the price for participating.

Frustration with the interruption of Gmail service seemed to reach even into the Communist nomenklatura. Global Times, a tabloid associated with the state-owned People’s Daily, carried a curious editorial saying that “if the China side indeed blocked Gmail, the decision must have been prompted by newly emerged security reasons. If that is the case, Gmail users need to accept the reality of Gmail being suspended in China. But we hope it is not the case.”

Or, Global Times might have said, it may be possible to nail Gmail to the wall, but it’s really not a good idea.


Great Firewall of China gets blamed for Gmail block


Many China-based Gmail users are discovering that they are unable to access emails over the weekend. According to, a China-based freedom of speech group, many Gmail web addresses were blocked in China on Friday — continuing three days later into today. Even Google‘s Transparency Report, showing real-time traffic to services like Gmail, shows activity plummeted last Friday.

According to Reuters, a Singapore-based spokesman for Google said that there was “nothing wrong on our end.” Also talking to Reuters, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said she did not know anything about Gmail being blocked, adding that the government remained committed to aiding overseas business:

“China has consistently had a welcoming and supportive attitude towards foreign investors doing legitimate business here. We will, as always, provide an open, transparent and good environment for foreign companies in China.”

China’s Great Firewall, while sophisticated, isn’t perfect. Many companies and users dodge censorship by connecting through a Virtual Personal Networks (VPN), which can offer up the version of the internet we get to see everywhere else.

20 crazy facts about North Korea


There are many fascinating countries around the world–in fact, we’d wager that there aren’t any truly boring places. But one of the most bizarrely “can’t look away from the train wreck” places in the world is North Korea. Now, there’s a lot of information (and misinformation) out there about the country, and sometimes it can be hard to separate the fact from fiction. Still, we like to try, right?

So, you can imagine how excited we were when we found a series of twenty photos and facts about North Korea have been making the Internet rounds! But we wanted to knowmore! Click below to see the 20 facts and some of the background information we dug up.



This fact is absolutely, horrifyingly true, and you can read about what it was like being in the second generation in this gripping book Escape from Camp 14. We won’t say that it will reduce you to a sobbing mess of a human being–but if you can read it without going “Holy crap, I can’t even…” at least once, you might be an android. If you’re wondering what might get a North Korean sent to one of these prison labor camps, the answer is political crimes, such as criticizing the government or trying to escape.



This fact appeared in various places around the Internet, but we weren’t able to find an original source for it. However, we were able to learn a little bit about how jobs are assigned in North Korea. It seems that everyone is automatically given a job by the government after high school–and stuck with that job for life. However, the system is breaking down, and North Koreans now have to earn money on their own–by bribing their factory bosses, for example, to let them go to work in markets. There are other jobs in state-run “companies” that earn foreign currency–but they also require bribery to get into.



As surprising as this might be to many people around the world, this is true–and there’s actually a bit more going on. Cannabis isn’t the only drug that’s essentially legal in North Korea–the government also encourages people to grow opium on unused land to be resold abroad. As for marijuana plants growing freely by roadsides, the report we’ve linked to suggest that marijuana is often planted next to railroad tracks to help support the rails with their deep roots. Meth, on the other hand, is strictly prohibited–and users will “face a firing squad if caught.” Walter White, stay out of North Korea!



These facts were reported widely even by the western media after Kim Jong-Il’s death in 2011. While it’s impossible to verify how many holes-in-one the Dear Leader ever made, we’re guessing it’s safe to assume the real number is slightly lower than what the official records claim. But it wasn’t just Kim who took sports seriously–allegedly the North Korean soccer team was publicly derided for their loss at the 2010 FIFA World Cup for six hours. Jeez, that’s almost as bad as having to play soccer.



Partly because of how it’s worded, this fact is a bit difficult to pin down. However, it’s worth remembering that in 2012, the reclusive country successfully launched a satellite into orbit. Fortunately, it seems that they lack any missiles capable of carrying a payload large enough to actually move any of their warheads. So, this is basically true–but they could probably land a really loud party-popper in North America if they had a few spares.



This is a kind of strange statistic to deal with, since it’s not clear what a success would be. We think this graphic is referring to satellite launches, though–and, yes, of the five launches made by North Korea, only one has made it to a successful orbit in space. However, the North Korean government claims that there is actually another satellite that made orbit in 1998 and is currently sending patriotic songs into space. For science! Or…something?



The number cited here seems to come for an Amnesty International report in the 1990s. One ex-guard who defected from North Korea guessed that about 2,000 people die of malnutrition each year in Hoeryong concentration camp–but that the number of inmates stays constant at 50,000 thanks to an equal number of incoming prisoners. The same guard estimated that 30% of prisoners have physical deformities such as missing limbs. You can read more about the camp conditions on Wikipedia, but we’re not sure we’d recommend it, especially if you’re eating.



This research was widely reported around the world when it was revealed in 2011, so you’ve probably heard about it before. What you might not have heard was the happiness ranking of the USA: Dead last. Hmm…we always suspected that Americans were all secretly depressed–just look at the TV shows! Only depressed people would watch a show called “Glee,” right?



This fact seems to have come from the 2009 book Nothing to Envy, which described the lives of six North Koreans over 15 years, including one school teacher. Apparently her accordion test was postponed due to the death of Kim Il-Sung, though she was still able to find work as a kindergarten teacher until she could take her test. 



As much as people might complain about wasteful government spending, we can’t think of anything that holds a pork barrel to this, um, unique use of funds. In addition to the empty buildings, North Korea also had loudspeakers that would blare propaganda at its southern neighbor–who responded in kind. Fortunately for everyone in earshot, both countries agreed to cease their noisemaking in 2004, after which the loudspeakers were dismantled.



This was another fact that we weren’t able to verify. A number of websites report it, but it’s not clear what the actual source is. However, it’s important to note that there are frequent power outages in North Korea, so even if this were true, we imagine that a lack of electricity would render the radios silent. Bet you never thought someone would hope for their electricity to go out!



This fact seems to come from the Daily NK website, which includes a bit more information on statutes in North Korea. It turns out that all statues are produced in one place, the Mansudae Art Institute, and are actually guarded en route and “presented with a military saluted” as if real people. Sheesh, and we can’t even get our cats to treat us like fake people!



So, what about stuff that happened before Kim Il-sung was born? Apparently it’s standard practice to simply use the Gregorian calendar that western (and most other) nations use. We’re kind of disappointed. We were hoping for B.K. years–Burger King! Or, wait, would that be Before Kim…?



This fact is another one that we weren’t able to verify. It may be true, and would explain how North Korea claims a literacy rate of 99 percent–which would put it among the highest in the world. Obviously, almost no one seems to believe this statistic (remember the 1998  satellite?). On the other, the North Korean education system apparently includes 11 years of compulsory education, so it’s possible that the average North Korean really can read and write.


Unexploded ordinance left behind by Al Shabaab lay on the ground ahead of being destroyed by controlled detonation carried out by a combat engineering team serving with the Kenyan Contingent of the AMISOM in the southern Somali port city of Kismayo

Whoa! That is one hell of a way to go, isn’t it? And, yes, execution by mortar shell is a thing in North Korea, but it doesn’t seem to be particularly common. Apparently, it was used on a top ranking government official who didn’t wait long enough to have a party after the death of Kim Jong-il and was executed for lack of proper mourning. Kim Jong-un was reported as saying that the official, who was vice minister of the army when he still had all his cells in one piece, was to be completely obliterated, demanding that there be “no trace of him behind, down to his hair.”



This is certainly true, and you can even read the North Korean constitution if you feel like it. If you’re thinking this flies in the face of reality, you’re note entirely wrong, but the document also states some stuff that might not sound so familiar to foreigners. For example: “Citizens shall firmly safeguard the political and ideological unity and solidarity of the people,” and “Work is the noble duty and honour of a citizen.



North Korea’s economy is obviously little more than a shadow of its former self. In 2011, the estimated GDP per person was about US$1,800 per year, which is just a little bit less than, say, South Korea where the GDP person is about $30,800 or the US where the number is about $51,000. On the other hand, we guess there’s not much worth buying in North Korea…



This fact hardly seems surprising, though we should note that while there is only one candidate for any position on the ballot, voters can, technically, veto a candidate. This means, that they can vote against someone by crossing their name out–but to do so, a voter would have to enter a special booth without any privacy. We’re not sure why, but we have this crazy idea that someone might be keeping track of anyone who feels like casting a veto vote.


A North Korean woman uses a computer in

We haven’t been able to find up-to-date numbers for this fact, but we suspect that it might be a bit out of date. The use of computers and the Internet seems to be growing in the country, though mostly limited to upper class professionals and students. For example, North Korea recently debuted its own operating system, called Red Star, based on Linux. Additionally, some are even saying that North Korea is going through a digital revolution–though on such a small scale that we think “hiccup” might be a better word than “revolution.” However, it’s even been claimed that North Koreans have a hand in developing software for everyone from Middle Eastern banks to…Nintendo and Sony? Uhhh…let’s just say we’re a bit…skeptical.



There’s really not much you can add to this, except to note that the wood is apparently being sold to a British company and is used in the “particleboard furniture you’ve got all over your house.”