PYONGYANG, North Korea – It's late afternoon at the e-library in North Korea's Kim Il Sung University, where row after row of smartly dressed students sit quietly, their faces bathed in the glow of computer displays as they surf the Internet. On the surface, it's a familiar-seeming scene, which is exactly why officials are offering it up for a look.
North Korea is literally off the charts regarding Internet freedoms. There essentially aren't any. But the country is increasingly online. Though it deliberately and meticulously keeps its people isolated and in the dark about the outside world, it knows it must enter the information age to survive in the global economy.
As with so many other aspects of its internal workings, North Korea has tried hard to keep its relationship to the Internet hidden from foreign eyes. But it opened that door just a crack recently for The Associated Press to reveal a self-contained, tightly controlled Intranet called Kwangmyong, or "Bright."
North Korea thinks Bright is the authoritarian answer to the freewheeling Internet.
One of the first things an outside observer notices at Kim Il Sung U is that the students are actually studying. Not wasting time on Facebook or Reddit, no BuzzFeed. In fact, the sites they surf most likely aren't even on the Internet, but on the North-Korea-only Bright.
Chats and email? Monitored.
'I haven't had a time when I've been allowed to use the Intranet -- since the point is that it is not open to foreigners.'
Content? Restricted to the point that the use of Bright hardly even needs to be watched by officials.