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Saturday, December 24, 2016

North Korean You Tube Channel closed down due to US sanctions

YouTube has decided to block the channel of North Korean state television as a consequence of U.S. sanctions on the country. The ban will not only be a blow to the propaganda efforts of North Korea but also to those doing research on the country.

Apparently the channel was not removed because of the propaganda it produces, but because North Korea could actually make money through Google's built in advertising system. Under the sanctions it is not legal to do business with those in North Korea who operate the channel. The U.S. Treasury Press Center says: "OFAC has designated the Workers’ Party of Korea, Propaganda and Agitation Department (the “Propaganda and Agitation Department”) as an agency, instrumentality, or controlled entity of the Government of North Korea. The Workers’ Party of Korea has full control over the media, which it uses as a tool to control the public." OFAC is the Office of Foreign Assets Control.
What is not clear is if North Korea actually participates in the advertising program. Apparently even the potential that YouTube could do business with the North Korean entities is sufficient grounds to ban the channel. TaJ Meadows, head of communications for Google said: “We don’t comment on individual videos or channels...but we do disable accounts that violate our terms of service or community guidelines, and when we are required by law to do so.”
Researchers who study North Korea were disappointed in the Google decision. The channel provided in a timely fashion some of the daily content aired on North Korean TV. Researcher David Schmerler said: “This led to a better understanding of an event, even if the North Koreans tried to hide or spin a particular event as being a success when it may not have been.”
A message on the Korean Central Television channel's page says: "This account has been terminated for violating YouTube's Community Guidelines". Usually this would involve videos that contain violent, sexual images or that breach copyright but in this case Google may worry that they are breaking the law and violating sanctions. The company will not explain their action except to note that they disable accounts when they are required by law to do so.
Joshua Stanton a lawyer who approves the sanctions said: “Having reviewed the sanctions in March, they would have said that this is risky, we are potentially in violation. It’s good that they have done this, although it’s a fairly small piece of the picture." Bruce Klingner of the Heritage Foundation said that the North Koreans could get around the ban in that they could post the videos without making money off them or simply have some supporters post them.
There is still plenty of material from North Korea on YouTube. There are old movies such as the Flower Girl from 1972 that had seven views when last checked. More recent productions include popular videos showing Kim Jong Un's favorite woman's band. I enclose a video of a performance with tens of thousands of views. There are many popular TV "soap operas" as they were called in the old days as well with subtitles.

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