North Korea Unveils Netflix-Like Streaming Service Called ‘Manbang’
Netflix style video-on-demand comes to North Korea
Korea Central Television (KCTV), the state broadcaster in North Korea has unveiled a dedicated set-top box offering video-on-demand services, which is said to be the country version of Netflix and Apple TV.
Dubbed ‘Manbang’ (“Mon-bahng”), which translates into ‘everywhere’ or ‘every direction’, the device will allow those with access to North Korea’s state-run internet service to “replay documentary films about the leadership and learn Russian and English languages,” using IPTV services, according to NK News.
With the device, viewers can watch five different TV channels in real-time such as KCTV, Mansudae Television, Ryongnamsan TV, and find information related to the leader’s activities and Juche ideology. Users can also read articles from the newspaper Rodong Sinmun and the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
While North Korea bills the device as “Netflix for North Koreans,” it’s merely another extension of that country’s internal propaganda. Manbang’s offerings couldn’t be further from Netflix, which has become a portal for not only feature films and popular TV shows but also original content.
KCTV said consumer demand for the device was high but Variety estimates that only “a few thousand” people have access considering the highly limited availability of internet in the country, which actually only grant access to a list of 5000 websites.
The box also allows viewers to search for programs by typing in the title, or by browsing through categories, in a similar manner to Netflix offered in the United States.
“The information and communications (IOT) technology is based upon two-way communications,” Kim Jong Min, head of the center in charge of providing information and technology, said in the KCTV report.
“If a viewer wants to watch, for instance, an animal movie and sends a request to the equipment, it will show the relevant video to the viewer…this is two-way communications,” Kim explained.
A lot of the demand for “Manbang” appears to come from kids who are regularly asking to watch things over and over again, with NK News quoting an orphanage teacher saying: ““Children tended to pester to show new interesting videos again after their release, but we had difficulty in dealing with it. However, we are happy since we are now able to show films to them again, and children enjoy it”.”
Earlier this year, security researcher Doug Madory discovered a social network similar to a crude clone of Facebook on a North Korean internet address. However, this North Korean Facebook-style website was pulled down after people started setting up spoof profiles, including one of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.
Source: NK News
The author Kavita Iyer
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