North Korea, like many countries, has its own country code top-level domain name. This means any Web address that ends with ".kp" is linked to the notoriously isolated nation, much like addresses that end ".de" are linked to Germany and ".jp" are linked to Japan.
What's unusual, however, is how few websites actually use that address. Thanks to an apparent mistake, North Korea has revealed that only 28 websites use the ".kp" domain name.
That's a remarkably small number. To put it in perspective, more than 16 million addresses end with Germany's ".de" domain name.
Many of the websites with the ".kp" domain name are familiar to North Korea watchers. They include kcna.kp or rodong.rep.kp, which belong to the state news agency and the state newspaper, respectively, or the website of Air Koryo, the national airline.
But others are more unusual. One, apparently titled "Friend" at the address friend.com.kp, appeared to be some kind of social network. Another — cooks.org.kp — showed off recipes, while korfilm.com.kp was devoted to North Korean movies. All seem to be in keeping with the rudimentary Web design skills that are a hallmark of North Korea's online presence.
In fact, many of the websites appeared to have stopped functioning at all by Wednesday morning. Their administrators were perhaps unprepared for the traffic coming their way after Matt Bryant, a security engineer, uploaded the details of the ".kp" domain name to GitHub, a website popular with programmers, on Tuesday.
Byrant, who told Vice's Motherboard website that he was "a nerd who's obsessed with DNS," or domain name servers, had noticed that North Korea's system administrators had made a mistake that allowed outside users to query websites that used the ".kp" name. His discovery soon made its way to Reddit, where thousands of users quickly began exploring the websites they found.
"Bet NK has one less DNS administrator now," one Reddit user observed.
Perhaps, but there's no major revelations in the ".kp" domain. The small number of websites that use the domain isn't exactly surprising — only a few thousand North Korean citizens, if that, have access to the Internet. The vast majority of the country can access only a closed national intranet known as the Kwangmyong — a network of government-approved websites that are thought to number a few thousand. No parts of that network were revealed in this leak.
But the leak does raise an interesting question: If most North Korean citizens can't access these websites and the rest of the world discovers through a leak that the sites exist, who is their target audience?
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Correction: The article originally misidentified the engineer who identified the details of the ".kp" domain name. It has been amended to fix the error.