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The network uses domain names under the .kp top level domain that are not accessible from the global Internet. As of 2016 the network uses IPv4 addresses reserved for private networks in the 10.0.0.0/8 range. North Koreans often find it more convenient to access sites by their IP address rather than by URL using Latin characters. Like the global Internet, the network hosts content accessible with web browsers, and provides an internal web search engine. It also provides email services and news groups.
Only a small number of government officials and tourists are allowed to use the global Internet in North Korea, making Kwangmyong the only computer network available to most North Korean citizens. It is a free service for public use.
The Kwangmyong network is composed of multiple websites and services, including but not limited to: political, economic, scientific and cultural information and fields of knowledge among other topics; an emailing service; a social networking service; domestic news services; scientific research websites of academic and scholarly works devoted to the network through web-based academic exchanges and information sharing such as the Academy of Sciences for Science and Technology (Chosŏn'gŭl: 과학기술전시관; Hancha: 科學技術展示館) and the Academy of Sciences for Medical Science (Chosŏn'gŭl: 의학과학정보센터); websites of various North Korean government agencies including provincial government, cultural institutions, universities and some of the major industrial and commercial organizations; censored websites from the Internet (mostly related to science) that are downloaded, undergo review and censorship, and publication on the Kwangmyong; an electronic library; and a few e-commerce websites by commercial organizations. As of 2014, Kwangmyong is estimated to have between 1,000 and 5,500 websites.
Kwangmyong is only accessible from within North Korea. Access is available within major cities and counties, as well as universities and major industrial and commercial organizations. There are several internet cafés in Pyongyang.
Kwangmyong has 24-hour unlimited access by dial-up telephone line. As of 2013[update], a number of Android based tablet computer products, including the Samjiyon tablet computer, can be purchased in North Korea that give access to Kwangmyong.
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The network uses Korean as the main interface language, and is maintained by more than 2,000 language experts, according to official information, in expanding services in Russian, Chinese, English, French, German and Japanese, in which there is a real-time, online translation service for the seven languages, with a database containing over 2,000,000 words, to assist users who may not be familiar with foreign languages.
Foreigners in North Korea are generally not allowed to access Kwangmyong but may have access to the global Internet. For security reasons networks with Internet and intranet access are air gapped so that computers with Internet access are not housed in the same location as computers with Kwangmyong access.
Given that there is no direct connection to the outside Internet, unwanted information cannot enter the network. Information is filtered and processed by government agencies before being hosted on the North Korean Intranet. Burma and Cuba also use a similar network system that is separated from the rest of the Internet, and Iran has been reported as having future plans to implement such a network, though it's claimed that it would work alongside the Internet and wouldn't replace it.
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- List of sites on Kwangmyong at North Korea Tech
- Video of surfing on Kwangmyong at Yle Areena
- North Korea and the Internet at The Economist
- Kwangmyong computer network at North Korea Economy Watch
- Digital Divide on the Korean Peninsula at Institute for Corean-American Studies
- Hermit Surfers of P'yongyang at CIA