North Korea is a country shrouded in secrecy and conspiracy. Officially called the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the region was sectioned off from South Korea after the end of World War II. Since then it has evolved its own unique society and system of government, both of which are truly unlike any other country in the world.
The internet in North Korea is strictly regulated. In fact, most of the population doesn’t have access to basic online services, despite a rudimentary broadband infrastructure present in major cities. Most of North Korea’s online activities take place on a domestic-only network that doesn’t provide access to the outside world. Because of this, the world wide web only exists in small pockets of North Korea and is usually only taken advantage of by government officials and tourists.
Below we dive into more detail about the state of the internet in North Korea and discuss whether or not it’s possible to get a North Korean IP address.
- 1 State of the Internet in North Korea
- 2 How to Protect Your Data in North Korea
- 3 Stay Safe Online with These Security Tips
- 4 Conclusion
State of the Internet in North Korea
North Korea is unlike any other country in the world. Because of this, we can’t really think of its internet infrastructure in the same terms as, say, France or Canada. Below are some of the more unusual facts about using the internet in North Korea.
Tourists and the North Korean Internet
Tourism is (perhaps surprisingly) alive and well in North Korea, though most of it is confined to the capital city of Pyongyang. When visitors enter the town, they will have access to a limited and censored form of the internet that can load some external websites, but nothing more. In other words, don’t expect to land in Pyongyang and check your Facebook feed!
Getting a North Korean IP Address
An IP address is a unique identifier assigned to every device that connects to the internet. They’re used like a mailing address to route data to and from the internet, allowing packets of information to be transmitted quickly and accurately. IP addresses are assigned by internet service providers (ISPs) and similar companies, and they’re always based on where their servers are physically located.
If you live in the United States and connect through an ISP, you’ve automatically got an American IP address, one that can show which state and city you’re currently in, as well. By using a VPN you can route your traffic through non-local servers before they reach the internet, giving you the ability to assign your traffic a virtual IP address. This lets you change locations at the press of a button, but where you can “move” all depends on where the VPN has its operations.
VPN companies run proxy servers in cities around the world. Each bank of computers has a block of IP addresses that users can connect to and share, allowing for virtual locations on any device. The limitation to this is a server has to be located in a country to get an IP address from there. If you want to get a Greek IP address, for example, you have to connect to a VPN server physically located in Greece.
This presents some problems when it comes to getting a North Korean IP address. The country doesn’t allow foreign businesses to operate services like this within its borders. If you can’t host an international server in North Korea, you can’t give people access to North Korean IP addresses. If any company or VPN claims otherwise, it’s nothing more than a (dishonest) marketing tactic.
Can You Use a VPN to See North Korean Websites?
North Korea only hosts a handful of websites on the internet that the general public can view. These are largely restricted to tourism, cultural, business, and political information, including free access to the written works of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il, and Kim Jong Un. Below are a few of the official DPRK sites hosted on the public world wide web:
- Publications of the DPRK – Written content and pictoral books about North Korea.
- Cooks – Information about North Korean food.
- Film – Films made in and about North Korea.
- DPR Korea Tour – Tourism information.
- DPRK Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Internal websites on North Korea’s domestic internet service can only be accessed through a physical connection. You can’t VPN into North Korea’s local sites, as even if you could get a North Korean IP address, they’re largely irrelevant in this case.
How to Protect Your Data in North Korea
Accessing the world wide internet while in North Korea is practically impossible for its citizens, and it’s difficult for travelers, too. Fortunately there are some measures you can take to keep your information safe while taking a trip to the DPRK.
Using a VPN in North Korea
There are dozens of benefits to using a VPN in your everyday life, including choosing non-local IP addresses and protecting your online identity. Most of these come from VPN encryption, which, as it turns out, is an incredibly powerful tool for keeping you safe abroad.
If you want to visit North Korea but need to preserve your online privacy, invest in a good, reliable VPN. We’ve chosen a few recommended services in the next section to help you get started. We also provided our top VPN criteria that will help you choose which VPN best suits your needs while traveling.
- Fast downloads – Don’t let your VPN slow down your online experience! Encryption encumbers your connection, but the best servers minimize this impact.
- Privacy and security – Strong encryption and great privacy policies are crucial to your safety online.
- Server network – More servers is key to getting the best connection. The bigger the network, the better.
- Zero-logging policy – Your information can only stay safe if the VPN doesn’t keep logs.
1 – ExpressVPN – Fast and User-Friendly
ExpressVPN is one of the fastest VPNs in the industry, and it has been for years. Not only does it deploy one of the best server networks out there, but ExpressVPN is also extremely easy to use, making it a perfect choice for anyone who needs a reliable VPN, including newcomers.
ExpressVPN offers a wide range of privacy features to keep you safe and anonymous each time you connect, including 256-bit AES encryption, a zero-logging policy, and both kill switch and DNS leak protection. The company’s server network also covers over 2,000 locations in 94 different areas, giving you plenty of options for a fast connection.
Using ExpressVPN is surprisingly simple, all thanks to its custom software made for nearly all modern devices, including Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS. Once you create an account, all you need to do is download the app, sign in, and you’re set. ExpressVPN takes care of finding the fastest server to connect you to each time you turn on your device, keeping your data secure and your location hidden in the process.
- Unblocking Netflix, iPlayer, Hulu, Amazon Prime
- Reliable and fast connections
- Govt-level AES-256 encryption
- No logging policy well enforced
- 24/7 Live Chat.
- Power-users configuration options.
Check out our ExpressVPN review for more info about the company’s amazing features!
2 – NordVPN – Fast and Powerful Protection
NordVPN is a fast, secure, and popular VPN trusted by thousands of users around the world. Its impressive feature is the size of its server network, which currently offers access to over 4,900 servers in 62 countries–nearly twice the amount of its nearest competitors. This amazing variety lets NordVPN deliver fast speeds around the world, regardless of location. NordVPN also delivers unique VPN services thanks to this large network, including double encryption, location obfuscation, dedicated IP addresses, and anti-DDoS options.
NordVPN packages everything you need to stay safe online in one convenient location, from 256-bit AES encryption to DNS leak protection, an automatic kill switch, and an amazing zero-logging policy that covers time stamps, DNS requests, IP addresses, and traffic. It’s also extremely easy to use, with smart, intuitive software designed for all modern devices that handles all of the heavy lifting. When you need solid, fast protection, just fire up NordVPN and you’re set.
- Servers optimized for unblocking Netflix
- Over 5,400 servers in 61 countries
- Torrenting/P2P explicitly allowed
- “Double” data protection
- Live chat support is available.
- Not much
- Apps can sometime be slow to connect.
Learn more about the NordVPN experience in our full NordVPN review.
3 – PrivateVPN – Stable and Secure
PrivateVPN is a balanced and reliable VPN that delivers just the right mix of speed and security. Everything about the VPN is designed to keep you safe while providing an excellent online experience, one that’s surprisingly easy to use, too. PrivateVPN accomplishes this with lightweight software anyone can pick up and understand, making it easily accessible from desktops, tablets, and Android and iOS smartphones. There’s no need to go through complicated setups or configurations, just run the app and you’re secure.
This provider operates a network of over 100 servers in 56 different countries, enough to deliver location variety and fast speeds without sacrificing reliability. PrivateVPN locks down all data passing through this network with 256-bit AES encryption, and it keeps your connection safe with an automatic kill switch, DNS leak protection, and a zero logging policy on traffic, too.
Read more about PrivateVPN’s useful features in our full PrivateVPN review.
Stay Safe Online with These Security Tips
It may not be possible to get a North Korean IP address (and if you had one, you wouldn’t be able to do much with it), but there are still some good security practices you can adhere to so you stay safe online, especially while visiting the enigmatic and reclusive country.
Use the Tor Browser
The Tor browser deploys its own encrypted network to protect your information by relaying it through multiple locations and securing it with 128-bit AES encryption. Simply put, Tor takes the IP address assigned to you and switches it with a random, anonymous one from its own network, then it does that dozens more times so no one can trace your information.
Tor itself is incredibly secure, making it one of the best ways to stay safe online. The downside is you can’t use it for many everyday tasks, as it’s incredibly slow and won’t run certain videos or other online applications. Still, it’s by far the best way to lock down your data on the internet. You can even use Tor with a VPN for added security.
Get a VPN Before You Travel
Visiting North Korea for the first time? Make sure you have your VPN installed and ready to go before you leave your home. Censorship practices mean some websites disappear without notice, including VPN download sites. You might find the main website completely unavailable the moment you step off the plane. Make sure you sign up for your VPN account and are paid up through your time in North Korea. Also download the VPN before you leave and make sure everything is ready to go.
Avoid Free VPNs
Free VPN services are usually nothing but trouble. It’s tempting to use them in a pinch, especially if you forgot to sign up for a real VPN before you got on the plane, but the dangers to your privacy are too great of a risk. A large number of no-cost VPNs collect and sell user data and have been known to collaborate with governments to spy on users.
Try Alternative Encryption Methods
In addition to VPN encryption, there are a number of other, optional encryption protocols you can use for added security. These can be slower or faster than a VPN and offer better or slightly worse data protection. They’re much less likely to be blocked or throttled when you travel, though, so it’s worth reading up on a few of them, just in case.
- Shadowsocks (SOCKS5 Proxy) – Shadowsocks was developed to allow free and open internet access in China, but it can be used to protect any internet connection around the world. To use this method you’ll need access to a shadowsocks server, which either requires deploying your own or paying for an external service. It works well with desktop operating systems, Android, and iOS devices alike, and it’s surprisingly fast and secure, as well.
- SSH Tunnel – SSH tunnels wrap data in an extra layer of SSH encryption, allowing them to pass through filtering services undetected. They can be a little on the slow side, but the level of protection they offer is practically unbeatable. It’s surprisingly easy to make an SSH tunnel on Linux and Mac systems, but Windows users will have to do extra legwork.
- SSL/TLS Tunnel – SSL (Secure Socket Layer) connections aren’t blocked by internet service providers, as they’re deployed by countless online shopping, e-mail, web banking, and other services that deal with private data. By utilizing an SSL tunnel you can wrap your traffic in encryption to make it look like a standard SSL connection, allowing you to stay safe online, even in North Korea. To use an SSL tunnel you’ll need to download the stunnel software. Note that it’s not easy or quick to set up.
It isn’t possible to get a North Korean IP address without traveling to the country itself. If you do plan a trip, though, be aware that there are some basic security measures you should take to make sure your data and your identity remain secure. Using a VPN is the most important of these precautions.
Have you visited Pyongyang? What was it like to connect to North Korean internet? Leave us your story in the comments below!