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North Korea has just launched its own Netflix-style streaming service

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North Korea now has its own Netflix-style streaming service. Sort of.

The highly secretive state reportedly launched the service in recent days, offering citizens in three cities, including the capital Pyongyang, access to five streamed channels alongside a selection of on-demand content.

Going with the name Manbang, which apparently means “everywhere” in Korean, the service’s set-top box is also streaming English and Russian language lessons, as well as a selection of state-approved newspaper articles.

In addition, it lets users “replay documentary films about the leadership,” according to NK News, an independent media outlet that focuses on North Korean affairs. Yes, it does seem like a rather limited range of content, which by the sounds of it will mainly include features about the current leader Kim Jong-un, as well as additional programming about his father and grandfather, both of whom also led the famously isolated country.

“The box allows viewers to search for programs by typing in the title, or by browsing through categories, offering similar functionality to Netflix in the United States,” NK News said.

But North Korean viewers won’t be getting anything close to what Netflix offers. That’s right, The Interview, among other less controversial content, will not be landing on the service anytime soon. For movies made outside of North Korea, its citizens will have to continue to rely on smuggled material from activists like this guy who’s been using drones to carry USB drives loaded up with Western movies into the country.

With its broadband infrastructure limited as well as tightly controlled, it’s not clear how many people will actually be able to access Manbang. It’s thought only a few thousand people in the country – population 25 million – have access to the internet, with special permission necessary needed to get online. In addition, anyone with a personal computer must also register ownership of their machine.

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Trevor Mogg
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