So North Korea has a lot of restrictions in place, so what. They have got their own alternatives for stuff that is banned for the public’s own good. Continuing with its guiding-cum-enforcement policies, the regime has launched a brand new service. Called Manbang, the service is a netflix competitor. And yes, this name is as hilarious as it can get.
Before moving any further, allow us to inform you that the word “Manbang” means everything in Korean and not something inappropriate. That said, the choice of the name for the service is certain to birth a whole bunch of new jokes about the regime and it’s supremely revered — or supremely despised, depending upon where you are — leader Kim Jong-un. Specially since the range of content offered by the network is on this side of everywhere, by a very long shot.
The service is being projected as the Netflix competitor in the country. However, in case you are looking for content that is available across the rest of the world, prepare to be disappointed. The service is being provided by KCTV, which unfortunately is the state-controlled TV service, and as such, any content that makes its way to the television sets is likely to be heavily censored.
Meanwhile, subscribers will receive a set-top box that will need to be connected to their televisions in order to access state-controlled intranet through the IPTV protocol. And yes, the fact that the service is state-controlled takes away the “on demand” part from the “video on demand” part of the service.
Viewers will be able to watch five different TV channels in real-time on the network. The list of channels includes KCTV, MansudaeTelevision, Ryongnamsan TV and can also find information related to the leader’s activities and Juche ideology. Very tempting, i am sure. Apart from watching these channels, users can also read articles from the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
While you may be scratching your head at why the state even bothered launching such a highly limited service, well, in a country with censorship levels as high as North Korea, the ‘Manbang’ is actually a pretty huge step for the domestic North Korean television technology, considering the severely limited availability of inter/intra net in the country. Also, since Netflix may actually be unable to make its way to the country due to US-imposed economic sanctions, well, Manbang may be all they have in the near future.
Speaking on the topic, Kim Jong Min, an information apparatchik said,
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.
Although, the choice of content available is going to be highly curated so as to keep in line with the country’s strict, state-run moral and ethical policies.
As per the World Bank, the number of secure internet servers per one million users is equal to…..guess? ZERO. While the world average is somewhere over a couple of hundred, despite the low internet penetration in various parts of the country. Considering this sad state of affairs, even Manbang is good since it may be the prelude to as step in the right direction.