It has been two and a half years since North Korean TV showcased a new IP streaming television service called “Manbang” (만방). Since then, it occasionally appears in state media but it’s still largely a mystery.
The Manbang service is quite impressive in that it mirrors the comprehensive live and on-demand services offered by many TV stations around the world and might be considered surprising as North Korea isn’t generally thought of as a highly networked society.
But, as with all North Korean technology, we should consider why this has been introduced. Through Manbang, the government gets to spread its propaganda message further into the country and it gets greater insight into the viewing habits of the nation—including which households did and didn’t watch last night’s documentary on Kim Jong Un’s latest trip or, perhaps even worse, which households switched it off halfway through.
The additional TV stations it carries have a wider selection of entertainment programming than Korean Central Television (KCTV) with movies, sports and documentaries, so they also might make it less likely that the bored stray away from state media to illicit foreign programming. If that is the case, then the introduction of Manbang could be further evidence of the widespread viewing of foreign content.
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